Hidden hepatitis

Millions of people in the world suffer from hepatitis but do not know it. One of the great objectives in the fight against the disease is to detect these hidden cases in order to treat them and thus prevent the hepatitis viruses from causing such serious damage to the liver that they endanger their lives. July 28 is World Hepatitis Day

Hidden hepatitis

The World Alliance Against Hepatitis stresses that since there are effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is an achievable goal / EFE / Sebastien Nogier

“Viral hepatitis is one of the greatest threats to the global health of our time,” highlights the Global Alliance Against Hepatitis. This entity indicates that viral hepatitis causes 1.34 million deaths per year and is behind two out of three deaths from liver cancer.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is usually caused by a viral infection. The main viruses are five and are named with the letters A, B, C, D and E. However, not all of them have the same severity. The most dangerous are B and C.

The World Health Organization (WHO) details that the hepatitis A virus is present in the feces of infected people and is almost always transmitted due to the consumption of contaminated food or water. The infection is usually mild and most people recover completely and gain immunity against future infections with this virus. However, the WHO recalls that infections with the hepatitis A virus can also be serious and life-threatening.

The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through contact with the blood, semen and other bodily fluids of an infected person. It can cause chronic liver disease and carries a high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. The WHO emphasizes that this pathology, B, constitutes a major health problem worldwide. This entity clarifies that it can be prevented “with the vaccine currently available, which is safe and effective”.

The hepatitis C virus is almost always transmitted through the blood. Sexual transmission is also possible, but much less common. Vicente Carreño, president of the Foundation for the Study of Viral Hepatitis, explains that the transmission routes are common for viruses B and C. However, “B virus is much more infectious than C so, before a same exposure, it is easier to get infected with B than with C “, he says.

Contrary to what happens with hepatitis B, there is no vaccine to prevent C. WHO estimates that each year about 399,000 people die due to their fault, mainly due to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. People infected by this type of virus usually do not have symptoms. In fact, the infection often remains asymptomatic for decades, until the symptoms of the severe damage that the virus has caused in the liver appear.

hepatitis world day
Poster prepared by WHO on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day / Photo: WHO

“Antivirals can cure more than 95% of cases of infection with C virus, which reduces the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is limited,” says WHO .

The  Hepatitis D occurs only in people infected with the virus B. “simultaneous infection by both viruses can cause a more serious condition and have a worse outcome , ” said WHO.

Finally, the hepatitis E virus , as occurs with A, is transmitted through the consumption of contaminated food and water. In this sense, Dr. Carreño clarifies that the hepatitis E virus is present in many animals and can pass to the human being through the consumption of meat. Thus, he points out that we must take special care with pork and never consume it raw.

300 million people

According to data from the World Alliance Against Hepatitis, 300 million people live with viral hepatitis without knowing it. Many of them suffer from B or C, two infectious diseases that cause serious damage to the liver, cancer and can cause death.

This entity emphasizes that the B and C hit, above all, the most disadvantaged, for example, those who inject drugs, indigenous peoples, prisoners or those suffering from HIV or AIDS, among other population groups.

hepatitis world day
Another of the posters produced by WHO on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day / Photo: WHO

Likewise, the World Alliance Against Hepatitis states that 90% of those who suffer B and 80% of those who live with C do not know they have the disease, which leads to the real possibility of developing liver cancer that It can be deadly. In addition, these people can spread the infection to others without being aware of it.

For this reason, the health authorities recommend those who have experienced situations of risk of contracting hepatitis B or C to go to a health center to be tested for these viruses.

Examples of risk situations are: having sex without a condom with a person who may be infected; have had a tattoo in a place that does not meet the necessary hygienic conditions or have undergone unsafe medical interventions.

The World Alliance Against Hepatitis stresses that since there are effective vaccines and treatments for B and a cure for C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is an achievable goal. However, greater awareness and knowledge of the disease and its risks are needed, as well as cheaper access to diagnoses and treatments.

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