May Is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Help Stop the Spread of Hepatitis

Wed May 23, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

DUPAGE COUNTY­­-The month of May is designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States, and the DuPage County Health Department is working to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and encourage appropriate prevention, screening, testing, and treatment. Many forms of hepatitis are preventable and can be treated if detected early.

The word 'hepatitis' means inflammation of the liver. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its function can be affected. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions can cause hepatitis but a virus often causes hepatitis. In the United States, the most common hepatitis viruses are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Worldwide, viral hepatitis is among the top 10 infectious disease killers with more than 1.3 million people dying each year from chronic viral hepatitis. These deaths are primarily from cirrhosis or liver cancer caused by hepatitis B and hepatitis C. In fact, chronic hepatitis B and chronic hepatitis C cause approximately 60% of liver cancer cases.

Many of those who are chronically infected are unaware of their infection. People can live with chronic viral hepatitis for decades before having symptoms or feeling sick. So even though a person has no symptoms and may appear healthy, damage to their liver can still be occurring.

The good news is hepatitis A and hepatitis B can be prevented with safe, effective vaccines. Over the last several decades in the U.S., there has been more than a 90% decrease in hepatitis A cases, and many experts believe this decline is due to vaccination of children and people at risk for hepatitis A.

In many parts of the world, including the U.S., widespread infant vaccination programs have led to a decrease in new cases of hepatitis B. There is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C, but research is ongoing.

Treatments for hepatitis B are available that can delay or even prevent liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Treatments are available for hepatitis C that can cure the disease. In fact, over 95% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within 2-3 months.

To better understand your risk for hepatitis, you can take this 5-minute online assessment developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which provides a personalized report on hepatitis testing and vaccination recommendations: www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/RiskAssessment/

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