World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July and brings the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. WHD unites patient organisations, governments, medical professionals, civil society, industry and the general public to boost the global profile of viral hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.
Viral hepatitis is not found in one location nor amongst one set of people; it is a truly global epidemic that can affect millions of people without them even being aware. With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment.
LEARNING WITH TIMES
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids. Common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment and for hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.
Acute infection may occur with limited or no symptoms, or may include symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
The liver is the body’s largest internal organ. It is also a gland because it secretes chemicals that are used by other parts of the body. For these reasons the liver is both an organ and a gland; in fact, it is the largest internal organ in the body.
Liver is responsible for making many of the proteins (protein synthesis) in the body that are required for many functions, including blood clotting factors, and albumin, required to maintain fluid within the circulation system. The liver is also responsible for manufacturing cholesterol and triglycerides. Carbohydrates are also produced in the liver and the organ is responsible for turning glucose into glycogen that can be stored both in the liver and in the muscle cells. The liver also makes bile that helps with food digestion.
The liver plays an important role in detoxifying the body by converting ammonia, a byproduct of metabolism in the body, into urea that is excreted in the urine by the kidneys. The liver also breaks down medications and drugs, including alcohol, and is responsible for breaking down insulin and other hormones in the body.