July 28 is World Hepatitis Day
NEWMARKET – The Regional Municipality of York joins communities from across the globe to promote World Hepatitis Day on Thursday, July 28.
This year’s theme, “Know it. Confront it. Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere,” will help raise awareness about hepatitis B and C – two forms of life threatening liver diseases – the risk factors and need for testing among those who think they might be infected.
Hepatitis B and C are viral infections that cause inflammation and attack the liver. They can cause acute and chronic infection and may lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure and/or liver cancer. Symptoms include fever, flu-like symptoms, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and/or skin), dark urine, muscle pain, joint pain and fatigue. Hepatitis B and C are sometimes referred to as “silent” diseases since people may not experience symptoms until their liver is severely damaged.
Approximately one in 12 people worldwide live with hepatitis B or C – including 600,000 Canadians.
Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV. It is often spread through contact with blood or body fluids contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis B is the only sexually transmitted infection that has a safe and effective vaccine to prevent against infection. Since the 1980s, immunization against hepatitis B has been part of the publicly funded national vaccine program. The vaccine is offered at no cost to people in high-risk groups, including household and sexual contacts of acute and chronic carriers, infants born to carrier mothers, IV drug users and people with multiple sexual partners. The vaccine is also offered as post-exposure intervention to those exposed to the virus (after a needle stick injury, for household and sexual contacts of acute and chronic carriers, and IV drug users).
As part of the school immunization program, York Region Public Health offers the hepatitis B vaccine to all Grade 7 students enrolled in a York Region school each fall.
Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood contact with someone who is infected with the virus. It can be spread through sexual contact, as well as by sharing personal hygiene items such as razors and toothbrushes. It can also be spread by using non-sterile equipment for tattoos, body piercing, injection drugs or medical procedures.
There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C; however, treatment is available. Residents can reduce the risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B and C by:
• Ensuring immunizations are up-to-date for hepatitis B
• Practicing safe and protected sex (using a condom)
• Treating all blood and body fluids as potentially infectious