May is Hepatitis Awareness Month!
The month of May is designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the U.S., and May 19th is Hepatitis Testing Day. During the month of May, the Idaho Viral Hepatitis Prevention Program and local partners work to shed light on the hidden epidemic by raising awareness and encouraging priority populations to get tested.
NEW - The CDC just published new recommendations for screening for Hepatitis C.
What is Hepatitis?
"Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by one of several viruses, such as Hepatitis A virus, Hepatitis B virus, or Hepatitis C virus. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, bacterial infections, and viral infections can also cause hepatitis.
What is the difference between Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long-term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.
How common is Hepatitis A in the United States?
Hepatitis A still occurs in the United States, although not as frequently as it once did. During the last 20 years, the number of cases of Hepatitis A has steadily declined. The estimated 373,000 new infections in 1990 dropped to 143,000 by the year 2000. New cases are now estimated to be around 30,000 each year. Many experts believe this decline is a result of the vaccination of children and people at risk for Hepatitis A.
How is Hepatitis A spread?
Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces or stool from an infected person.
Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis B can be either “acute” or “chronic”.
Acute Hepatitis B virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis B virus. Acute infection can—but does not always—lead to chronic infection.
Chronic Hepatitis B virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person’s body.
How common is Hepatitis B in the United States?
The number of acute Hepatitis B virus infections has been declining each year, with an estimated 46,000 new infections in 2006. Many experts believe this decline is a result of widespread vaccination of children. However, up to 1.4 million people may have chronic Hepatitis B, many of whom are unaware of their infection.
How is Hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B is usually spread when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact with an infected person or sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment. Hepatitis B can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth.
Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness. Hepatitis C is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
Hepatitis C can be either “acute” or “chronic.” Acute Hepatitis C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. For most people, acute infection leads to chronic infection. Chronic Hepatitis C is a serious disease than can result in long-term health problems, or even death.
There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injection drug use.
How common is acute Hepatitis C in the United States?
In 2006, there were an estimated 19,000 new Hepatitis C virus infections in the United States. However, the official number of reported Hepatitis C cases is much lower. Many people who are infected never have symptoms and therefore never come to the attention of medical or public health officials.
How common is chronic Hepatitis C in the United States?
An estimated 3.2 million persons in the United States have chronic Hepatitis C virus infection. Most people do not know they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick.
How is hepatitis C spread?
Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. Today, most people become infected with the Hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, Hepatitis C was also commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants.
Hepatitis C Treatment:
PegAssist and Be In Charge are targeted to individuals undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C. Roche Pharmaceuticals - www.pegassist.com and Schering-Plough Pharmacetuicals - www.beincharge.com have Websites which offer help to those who have tested positive for the virus and are trying to make good decisions about medical care and treatment.
Tattoos and hepatitis B and C
To prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis, equipment used in piercing and other procedures where the skin is broken must be cleaned, disinfected, and sterilized, or be a single-use item. Idaho does not regulate Tattoo parlors, so educate yourself on how to choose a safe one.