Today is World Hepatitis Day. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver tissue. Some people have no symptoms whereas others develop yellow discolouration of the skin and whites of the eyes, poor appetite, vomiting, tiredness, abdominal pain, or diarrhoea. Hepatitis may be temporary (acute) or long-term (chronic) depending on whether it lasts for less than or more than six months. Acute hepatitis can sometimes resolve on its own, progress to chronic hepatitis, or rarely result in acute liver failure. Over time the chronic form may progress to scarring of the liver, liver failure, or liver cancer.
The most common cause worldwide is viruses. Other causes include heavy alcohol use, certain medications, toxins, other infections, and autoimmune diseases. There are five main types of viral hepatitis: type A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E are mainly spread by contaminated food and water. Hepatitis B is mainly sexually transmitted, but may also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy or childbirth. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are commonly spread through infected blood such as may occur during needle sharing by intravenous drug users. Hepatitis D can only infect people already infected with hepatitis B.
Viral hepatitis B and C are major health challenges, affecting 325 million people globally. They are root causes of liver cancer, leading to 1.34 million deaths every year. Hepatitis B and C are chronic infections that may not show symptoms for a long period, sometimes years or decades. At least 60% of liver cancer cases are due to late testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C. Low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed in order to achieve the global elimination goals by 2030.
WHO will focus on the theme: “Test. Treat. Hepatitis” for World Hepatitis Day 2018 events. WHO and the Government of Mongolia will hold a series of events in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to commemorate the World Hepatitis Day 2018. The events will engage high-level leaders, advocates and patient representatives from global, regional and national organizations, highlighting the innovative solutions and partnerships needed in scaling up hepatitis testing and treatment services, as well as celebrating the country’s championing experience in the global hepatitis response.
Timely testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C can save lives.
Test. Treat. Hepatitis!