Shining a spotlight on Hepatitis
World Hepatitis Day is on the 28th July 2019
World Hepatitis Day is one of only four official disease-specific world health days recognised by the World Health Organisation. The Hepatitis Foundation of South Africa estimates that around 800,000 to 1,4 million people have chronic Hepatitis B (HBV) and more than 3.2 million have chronic Hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with blood or other bodily fluids, while Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood to blood contact such as unsafe needle/injection practices or inadequately sterilised medical equipment.
HBV infection is the most common viral infection in the world with over 350 million HBV carriers worldwide and 1.34 million deaths annually. South Africa has one of the highest liver cancer rates in the world and this is linked to the high rate of Hepatitis B infection. In the majority of infection cases, the body’s own immune system will automatically clear the virus from the blood, but in about 5% of cases, the immune system is unable to clear the virus, resulting in ongoing virus replication in the liver. Children who are infected before the age of 5, and HIV-positive populations are most at risk for chronic Hepatitis B.
Less than 5% of people living with viral Hepatitis are aware that they are infected, this is largely due to the lack of symptoms and screening. The result of this is many people missing the chance to have effective treatment that can stop them succumbing to liver disease, Cirrhosis and liver cancer.