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May 19th is the beginning of National Hepatitis Awareness Week

Today is marks the first day of National Hepatitis Awareness week, which is set to run until May 26th. With over 200 patient groups it is the first official global awareness event. Activities are planned nation wide to raise awareness of Hepatitis B and C.

What is Hepatitis B?(Mayo Clinic, National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, Web MD)

Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It affects the liver’s vital functions including ability to fight infections and remove toxins from your blood. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through contact with the blood and body fluids of someone who is infected. You’re especially at risk if you are an intravenous (IV) drug user who shares needles or other paraphernalia, have unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner, or were born in or travel to parts of the world where hepatitis B is widespread. In addition, women with HBV can pass the infection to their babies during childbirth.

Some statistics on Hepatitis B (Hep B Foundation, Center for Disease Control)

  • 2 billion people in the world have been infected (1 out of 3 people), of which 400 million are chronically infected.

  • An estimated 1 million people die each year from hepatitis B and its complications.

  • Approximately 2 people die each minute from hepatitis B.

  • There are 1.8 new hepatitis B cases per 100,000 population (2005)

What is Hepatitis C? (Mayo Clinic,Family Doctor, Medline Plus)

Hepatitis C is one type of hepatitis-a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Most people infected with the Hep C virus are asymptomatic or don’t have any symptoms. Of the many types of Hepatitis, Hepatitis C is generally considered to be the most serious. Over time, it can lead to liver cancer, liver failure or cirrhosis (irreversible and potentially fatal scarring of the liver). Serious cases may need a liver transplant.

Some statistics on Hepatitis C (Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization)

  • Estimated number of new infections per year has declined from an average of 240,000 in the 1980s to about 19,000 in 2006.

  • Most infections are due to illegal injection drug use.

  • Transfusion-associated cases occurred prior to blood donor screening; now occur in less than one per 2 million transfused units of blood.

  • The risk for perinatal HCV transmission is about 4%.

  • Approximately 170 million people, 3% of the world’s population, are infected with HCV and are at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer.

  • The prevalence of HCV infection in some countries in Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific (when prevalence data are available) is high compared to some countries in North America and Europe.

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