World Hepatitis Day
World Hepatitis Day is marked every year to increase awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes. The campaign for World Hepatitis Day 2015 is focused on the prevention of viral hepatitis through the following:
- Knowing the risks: Unsafe injections, and sharing drug-injection equipment can result in hepatitis infection.
- Demanding safe injections at health facilities: Using sterile, single-use syringes can prevent these infections.
- Vaccinating children: Safe and effective vaccines can protect from hepatitis B infection for life.
- Getting tested and seeking proper treatment: Effective medicines exist to treat hepatitis B and cure hepatitis C.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. Each type of hepatitis is caused a different virus and the 5 main hepatitis viruses are:
- Hepatitis A is spread mainly through eating food or drinking water that has been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. It can also be spread by eating raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage.
- Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. It can be passed on from mother to child during childbirth.
- Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact. In rare cases it can be transmitted through certain sexual practices and during childbirth.
- Hepatitis D is spread through contact with infected blood through unsafe injections or transfusions.
- Hepatitis E is mainly transmitted through eating food or drinking water that’s been contaminated by the faeces of an infected person. It can also be spread by eating raw shellfish that have come from water contaminated by sewage.
All of these viruses cause short term, or acute infection. However the hepatitis B, C and D viruses can also cause long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis, which can lead to life-threatening complications such as liver failure and liver cancer.
Diagnosis and symptoms of viral hepatitis
When a patient reports the following symptoms viral hepatitis is likely and can be confirmed by blood test. These symptoms include:
- abdominal pain,
- nausea and vomiting
- darkening of urine,
- loss of appetite, and
- jaundice (yellow colouring of the skin and white of the eyes).
When to see a doctor
If you experience any of these potentially serious symptoms you need to see a doctor immediately:
- persistent vomiting for longer than 6 hours,
- extreme drowsiness, confusion or restlessness,
- unusual bruising or bleeding, and/or
- if jaundice continues for longer than 3 weeks.
Hepatitis infection can be prevented by:
- providing safe food and water (hepatitis A and E),
- practising good hygiene and sanitation,
- having safe sex,
- safe vaccinations (hepatitis A, B, and E),
- avoiding getting tattoos or body piercings from unlicensed facilities,
- screening of blood donations and provision of sterile injecting equipment, and
- reducing the risk of infection by not sharing needles, razors etc. with someone’s who’s infected (hepatitis B and C).
It’s important for you to be aware of hepatitis and to learn how you can protect yourself and your family from being infected. Transmission of this virus can be prevented through better awareness and services that improve vaccinations, safer injections and blood transfusions, and to reduce long-term damage and harm.
Test your knowledge
Take the World Hepatitis Day prevention quiz and see how much you know.
Get involved in the 2015 campaign
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Watch the 2015 World Hepatitis Day campaign overview video: