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World Hepatitis Day

Today, marks World Hepatitis Day 2019. Viral hepatitis B and C affect 325 million people worldwide, causing 1.4 million deaths a year, and hepatitis is the second major killer infectious disease after tuberculosis. Yet hepatitis is preventable and treatable, and, in the case of hepatitis C, also curable.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has set this year’s theme as “Invest in eliminating hepatitis” and is urging both policymakers and the public to play their part. Here we round up some of the ways that you can help.

Get vaccinated

— There are several vaccines available for hepatitis A around the world, although none are licensed for children under the age of one.

— If you are exposed to hepatitis A, getting a vaccine or an injection of immunoglobulin (an antibody) within two weeks of exposure may still protect you from getting infected.

— The vaccine for hepatitis B offers protection for at least 20 years, if not for life.

— Pregnant women infected with hepatitis B can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth, however the Mayo Clinic notes that newborns can be vaccinated to avoid getting infected in almost all cases.

— Preventing hepatitis B also prevents hepatitis D, as it can only develop in those already infected with hepatitis B.

— There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but there is a cure.

— Although safe and effective vaccines have been developed for hepatitis E they are not widely available. At the moment, a vaccine to prevent hepatitis E virus infection is only licensed in China.

Protect yourself

— Hepatitis A, B, and C can be transmitted by unprotected sex so make sure you are using condoms.

— Hepatitis B and C can also be spread via needles. Never share needles, and if you are looking to get a tattoo or body piercing make sure you choose a reputable shop that uses clean and sterile needles.

— Good hygiene, including washing hands frequently, and avoiding contaminated water is important for preventing hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis A is most often spread via contaminated food or water or from close contact with a person or object that’s infected. Hepatitis E is most commonly spread via faecal contamination of drinking water.

Get tested

— The earlier you are tested to find out if you are infected with hepatitis means the earlier you can start any treatment you may need to prevent illness and possibly even to save your life.

— Mild cases of hepatitis A don’t require treatment and most people who are infected make a complete recovery.

— If you are living with hepatitis B you may need treatment, but be aware that you can stay healthy with life-long therapy.

— If you are living with hepatitis C, then a three-month treatment can cure the infection.

— There is no specific treatment that can alter the course of acute hepatitis E and prevention is the most effective approach.

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Articles from the editorial team.