World Hepatitis Day 2018: Eliminate Hepatitis

The first World Hepatitis Day was a community-led event on 28 July, 2008. On its 10th anniversary, the world will again come together to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and take action to stop this deadly disease. Every year, World Hepatitis Day is recognised for taking steps to “Eliminate Hepatitis” and influence a real change.


Hepatitis History

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July. The date was chosen because it is the birthday of Nobel Laureate, Baruch Samuel Blumberg who discovered the hepatitis B virus.

This day gives an opportunity for education and a deeper understanding of viral hepatitis as a global public health problem.

Hepatitis is one of just four diseases with global awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO). Started in 2008, WHD got primary focus for global awareness-raising efforts two years later.


What is Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver, and it is usually a viral infection. Besides viral infections, other possible causes of hepatitis include medicines, autoimmunity, liver disease, toxins, drugs and alcohol.

What are the different types of hepatitis?

The type of virus causing hepatitis determines which type it is. There is type A, B, C, D and E hepatitis. The WHO states that hepatitis A and E originate from consuming contaminated food and water. Type B and type C hepatitis are the most common. They spread by coming in contact with infected body fluids, such as infected blood and syringes.

Why is it a silent killer?

Healthcare experts claim that if untreated, Hepatitis B and C can lead to long-term liver damage, chronic liver disease and even liver cancer. Jaundice is a symptom of hepatitis, and it can be identified easily. Yellowing of the skin and eyes, abdominal pain, dark urine, fatigue, and vomiting are the common symptoms of jaundice. However, hepatitis infections do not always begin with jaundice, and they may not show obvious symptoms. This is why it is a silent killer. So World Hepatitis Day has made it a mission to find the millions of people who have it but do not even know.

In western countries, like the US, there has been a spike in hepatitis C in adults. Acute hepatitis C can easily spread from person to person through injections and drug-use by sharing infected needles. In the state of North Carolina, there were 62% more cases of hepatitis B and a staggering 200% increase in hepatitis C cases in just 4 years, from 2012 to 2016.

The US has 3.9 million people living with chronic hepatitis B and 7.2 million with chronic hepatitis C. Out of these, every year over 125,000 people die from liver cancer and liver disease (cirrhosis).


Jaundice and Hepatitis

Hepatitis is not necessarily caused by Jaundice (or hyperbilirubinemia). Many people, especially in India, think that Jaundice leads to Hepatitis, or that they are the same condition. This is not quite accurate. Adult Jaundice is a symptom whereas Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver caused by a virus.

Jaundice is often seen in newborns and infant below one. Usually, the bilirubin level is a bit high after birth. Before birth, the placenta removes bilirubin from the baby’s body. So it takes time for a newborn baby’s liver to adjust and work properly. This is why many newborns have yellowish skin. Post-natal jaundice is quite common, but it goes away as the baby gets older. But in adults, genetics and other liver diseases may cause the liver to malfunction.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, and it usually caused by any of five different types of viruses (called Hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E). Plus, viral hepatitis is highly infectious. According to a news report in 2014, the death toll for Jaundice has doubled in the last 2 decades to 40 million cases worldwide.

Here is a snapshot of the facts:

Is hepatitis B such a serious global health problem? Well, you tell us.

This silent killer is responsible for 1.34 million deaths every year. That is more than HIV/AIDS malaria or tuberculosis (TB). Hepatitis B and C together cause two-thirds of liver cancer deaths across the world.

  • 4000 people die every DAY from hepatitis B or C.
  • 325 million people are affected globally by hepatitis.
  • 290 million people are unaware they have hepatitis.
  • 1.34 million people die every year.
  • 2 million people contract hepatitis from injections.
  • 8 million injections are given every year unnecessarily.
  • 10 million people injecting drugs worldwide have hepatitis B or C.


Why Prevent Hepatitis?

Hepatitis B infections can be prevented. There is no known cure for hepatitis, so prevention is the best (and cheapest) cure. Hepatitis testing, vaccination and treatment can save millions of lives everywhere.

  • Hepatitis B vaccine protects against liver cancer.
  • Vaccinate your child to protect them from hepatitis.
  • Adults can also contract hepatitis.
  • Single-use syringes prevent hepatitis.
  • Take pills over injection when there is a choice.
  • People who take drugs are at high risk.
  • Tattoos and body piercings are visible, but hepatitis is not.
  • Discrimination and stigma against the disease can kill.


Hepatitis: A Global Burden

A shocking 4000 people die every day from viral hepatitis. But what is even more amazing is the lack of awareness and lack of action taken to stop new infections worldwide. Over 10 million people who inject drugs have hepatitis B or C, and many of them live in developed nations. There are only a few events and campaigns that help promote awareness.

Hepatitis in India

Indian has over 40 million Hepatitis B infected patients. This is second only to China. Most chronic Hepatitis B or C patients are unaware of their infection, which puts them at high risk of dying from cirrhosis or liver cancer.

As India observes World Hepatitis Day 2018 but the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in New Delhi reports that the efforts toward raising awareness has been “limited and painfully lagging behind”. According to them, about 600,000 Indians die from Hepatitis B or HBV infection annually, but the government still does not make screening policies for Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C.


World Hepatitis Day 2018 Theme

WHD occurs every year, but each year has a different theme. In recent years, themes, such as “Prevent Hepatitis” and “Think Again” implied a lack of knowledge about this serious disease in much of the world, including India.

The WHD 2018 campaign is to “Find The Missing Millions” who are unaware they have the disease. But the goal is the same each year – the elimination of viral hepatitis. Nearly 300 million people worldwide are living with viral hepatitis, unaware. Events organised around the globe will bring thousands of people together. They will join hands in the quest to find the “missing millions” of sufferers. If they are left undiscovered, they will miss getting proper health care, and millions of lives will be lost.

Where are the missing millions? Which countries are active?

According to a WHO report in 2017, nearly 89 percent of the 325 million people with viral hepatitis B and C are unaware they have it. Hepatitis does not discriminate; it goes beyond gender, age, ethnicity or geography. This puts everyone at risk and can lead to other serious diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, diabetes, liver complications, including end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. The only way is to do massive awareness campaigns globally and expand lab testing with a huge scale-up. Providing affordable diagnostics will ensure treatment increases, and infection rates reduce.

“Find the Missing Millions” is a three-year global awareness-raising campaign aimed at handling the social and diagnostic problems, which hinder progress to eliminate hepatitis. The countries have been told by the WHO to reach a target of 30% diagnosis rate by 2020. But only a handful have done it till date. Canada, Australia, Ireland, and Sweden have, but India, USA and UK have a ways to go. In 2016, Australia became a world leader discovering new treatments to cure hepatitis C.

The WHD initiative believes that nobody should have to live with viral hepatitis, unaware. Yet some 290 million people are living with the disease. massive scale-up in screening, diagnosis and affordable health care, more people will contract it. The governments of every country need to provide funding and facilities and should be accountable


Hepatitis News and Events

Over the last decade, the World Hepatitis Alliance has spearheaded the initiative. And it has witnessed celebrations in nearly every country in the world. And participation is growing year on year. Europe, Asia, Africa and in North and South America will witness over 1,000 events to find the missing millions on World Hepatitis Day 2018.

In 2014, the World Hepatitis Alliance managed to spread the word to 14 million people with the help of Facebook and Twitter automated posts. They also raised awareness of viral hepatitis by creating the 4000 voices concept on WHD 2015, by asking 4000 people to stand up for this campaign putting their profile pics on a mosaic. And the public was invited to join the 4000 voices on social media. There were millions of tweets with the #4000voices, and #PreventHepatitis hashtags.

Since then similar events and ad campaigns have been organised by the government, but they are far from reaching their target to prevent and eliminate hepatitis.

In 2016, 194 governments followed the WHO Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis. This includes eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030. But only a handful of countries are serious about meeting these targets by then.

The second World Hepatitis Summit, held in Brazil from 1-3 November 2017, was a global biennial event to take the viral hepatitis initiative to the next level. The World Health Organization and the World Hepatitis Alliance jointly organised the event for 900 delegates from 110 countries. They all had one goal: To Eliminate Hepatitis, using a 5-pronged strategy.

Ahead of World Hepatitis Day 2018, WHO launched a Global reporting system for hepatitis (GRSH). The online reporting system will enable monitoring and aim to get closer to the target of eliminating hepatitis B and C as a public health threat by 2030.

This year, the WHO is focussing on promoting the 3-step theme: “Test. Treat. Hepatitis” at various World Hepatitis Day 2018 events.


One World

This is a critical time. Unless enough countries take action now, the world will miss the chance to eliminate a cancer-causing disease.

On WHD 2018, the WHO has appealed to all individuals and organisations to unite under a drive to Eliminate Hepatitis and find the missing millions. For this, they are holding governments accountable.

Because only by acting together, we will eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.


Getting Involved in WHD Events

It can be good fun participating in World Hepatitis Day. It is when patients, family members, the general public and local governments come together and fight in the battle against hepatitis. You can organise an event in your locality. Plan a strategy, set your goals, and decide on which groups to target. Want to reach a particular age group, gender, patient group, politicians, or the media? Then start thinking about how to reach them. There is social media, websites, blog posts and of course, by word of mouth.


Do you have Hepatitis?

Hepatitis is not a children’s or neonatal disease. Adults can get infected, but timely treatment is important. If you suspect you are at risk, get protection in 3 steps:

  • Get tested
  • Get vaccinated
  • Get treated

You might have hepatitis and not even know it. Even if you are not in the high-risk group, it is best to see a qualified doctor and get a full medical check-up.

For World Hepatitis Day 2018, celebrate by protecting your health and the health of your family. Book a test with our Path Lab Testing Services. Get vaccinated to prevent and help eliminate hepatitis.

Order Medicines at our online pharmacy. Explore Liver Care Products from Zotezo.


Image Credit:

  • World Hepatitis


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