World Hepatitis Day is recognized annually on July 28th to raise awareness of hepatitis and to encourage screening and prevention efforts. ‘Hepatitis’ means inflammation of the liver and is often caused by a virus. The most common types of hepatitis are A, B, and C.
Hepatitis A is spread when a person ingests food or drink contaminated with infected fecal matter. Risk factors associated with hepatitis A infection include: close contact with an infected person, international travel, household contact with a child in day care, food-borne outbreak, male homosexual activity, and injecting drugs. People are most infectious one to two weeks before they become jaundiced. 1 in 5 people with hepatitis A will require hospitalization. There is an effective vaccine available for hepatitis A, consisting of a two shot series.
Hepatitis B is a virus found in body fluids including: semen, saliva and blood. It can be spread through sexual contact, exposure to infected blood (transfusion or occupational exposure), sharing needles, or by an infected mother to her baby at birth. Hepatitis B infections can lead to permanent liver damage, liver cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated.
Hepatitis C is commonly transmitted by exposure to infected blood. Common risk factors include: injection drug use, having multiple sex partners, and receiving blood or blood products before 1992. Hepatitis C can cause permanent liver damage, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. The CDC recommends that Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) be tested for hepatitis C once in their life. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, so the best way to prevent it is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs.
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