Millions of Americans are living with viral hepatitis in numerous forms, yet many don’t know it. This week marks the start of Hepatitis Awareness Month, an opportune time to remind Americans to get tested for the most common types of viral hepatitis.
- The word ‘hepatitis’ means inflammation of the liver
- The most common types of viral hepatitis are Types A, B and C
- Up to 5.3 million Americans have a chronic Hepatitis B or C infection
- Hepatitis C is 10x more infectious than HIV
- About 75% of people are unaware they are infected with Hepatitis C
Each form of viral hepatitis affects the liver in different ways and affects varying populations. Hepatitis causes the liver to swell and prevents it from working well. In some cases, viral hepatitis will resolve over time, but people living with chronic (long-term) viral hepatitis may require treatment. We wish to draw attention to the wide range of hepatitis risk factors so that more people will seek testing and treatment.
Common viral hepatitis risk factors include:
- Contaminated food or beverages
- Direct blood-to-blood contact (i.e., sharing needles, tattoos, piercings, blood transfusions)
- Unprotected sexual contact
- Those born to an infected mother
- People born between 1945 and 1965, known as “baby boomers”
While the statistics can be frightening, there has never been a more encouraging time in hepatitis treatment. In the last few years alone, new medications for Hepatitis C have become available that are vastly curative. But before we address treatments and cures, we need to first focus on testing and accurate diagnosis. Testing for viral hepatitis is critical, as early treatment can prevent more serious liver disease from developing. If you or a loved one are at risk for viral hepatitis, we urge you to get tested. Family members and friends play a critical role in encouraging loved ones to get tested.
The American Liver Foundation is the source of information on all forms of hepatitis. Visit our dedicated website for Hepatitis C (www.hepc123.org), plus general liver health information onwww.LiverFoundation.org and through our national toll-free helpline: 1-800-GO-LIVER (1-800-465-4837).