4 Ways to Increase Awareness on World Hepatitis Day

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B
Most people living with hepatitis are unaware of their infection. What can you do to raise awareness and break down the barriers to diagnosis?

At Infectious Disease Advisor, we bring hepatitis news and clinical information to you around the clock. Today, we’re bringing you something different: a closer look at World Hepatitis Day.

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, and the World Hepatitis Alliance is launching its “Find the Missing Millions” campaign to raise global awareness and break down the barriers to diagnosis.1 Most people living with hepatitis are unaware of their infection.2 What’s more, chronic viral hepatitis is the most common risk factor for liver cancer.3 By increasing awareness, many deaths can be prevented. What can you do to help?

1. Identify At-Risk Patients

Although hepatitis is more common in some parts of the world than others, everyone is susceptible to it, from infants to the elderly across all races and backgrounds. The symptoms of viral hepatitis include jaundice, loss of appetite, dark urine, abdominal pain, joint pain, fever, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.4 Because not everyone shows symptoms, identifying who is at risk and encouraging screening is critical in reducing risk.

Hepatitis A is typically transmitted through the ingestion of contaminated water and food or contact with someone carrying the infection. Hepatitis A is most likely to be found in people who…5

  • Have not been vaccinated or previously infected
  • Are very young (most infections occur during early childhood)
  • Live in areas with poor sanitation and/or a lack of safe drinking water
  • Live with infected persons
  • Use drugs recreationally
  • Have a sexual partner who has hepatitis A

Hepatitis B and C are transmitted primarily through the use of contaminated needles, unsafe sex with infected partners, and during childbirth if the mother is infected. Hepatitis B is most likely to be found in people who…6,7

  • Are sexually active but are not in monogamous, long-term relationships
  • Have HIV
  • Have a close family member or mother with hepatitis B
  • Live with someone who has hepatitis B
  • Are men who have sex with men
  • Work in healthcare and may be exposed to blood
  • Inject illicit drugs
  • Have chronic kidney or liver disease
  • Originate from or travel to parts of the world where hepatitis B is more common, such as the Pacific Islands, Asia, and Africa
  • Have tattoos and/or piercings that may have been infected

Hepatitis C is most likely to be found in people who…8

  • Had a blood transfusion or organ donation prior to June 1992 (the time when sensitive tests for hepatitis C virus [HCV] were introduced)
  • Work in healthcare and might experience needle-stick accidents
  • Inject or used to inject illicit drugs
  • Were born to mothers with HCV

2. Encourage Vaccinations

Safe and effective vaccines exist for hepatitis A and B. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the hepatitis A vaccine for children 1 year of age9 and the hepatitis B vaccine for infants at birth.10 The hepatitis B vaccine series should be completed by 6 to 18 months of age. Currently no vaccine exists for HCV; however, individuals can reduce their risk of infection by avoiding activities that put them in contact with infected blood. In particular, it’s important to avoid the use of injected drugs.

3. Provide Educational Resources

Hepatitis has been dubbed a “silent epidemic” because millions of people are living with it unknowingly.11 In the United States, 3.5 million Americans are living with HCV, and only about half know they have the infection.12

As a healthcare professional, it’s vital that you encourage hepatitis screenings and vaccinations. There are a number of ways to go about spreading information: through social media, posters, pamphlets, talking to patients, and encouraging colleagues to do the same. Don’t solely focus on the risks; also explain why screenings and vaccinations are necessary and effective.

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There are also educational resources your patients can take advantage of such as the CDC’s 5-minute hepatitis risk assessment.13 Also, to stay informed on outbreaks across the United States, monitor the CDC website.14

4. Get Involved

Although World Hepatitis Day takes place just once a year, you can get involved year-round and help spread awareness through various means. The World Hepatitis Alliance offers campaign materials, such as posters and social media graphics, which you can use to spread the message. In the United States, Hepatitis Awareness Month takes place every May. You can use this month-long opportunity to shine a light on hepatitis. The US Department of Health and Human Services is another great resource for tracking events and campaigns dedicated to raising hepatitis awareness.15

Final Thought

While World Hepatitis Day is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness, it’s important to actively promote screenings and vaccinations year-round. Take these concrete steps and you can help spread awareness in your practice, your community, and beyond.

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  1. World Hepatitis Day 2018. World Hepatitis Alliance. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  2. Peeling RW, Boeras DI, Marinucci F, Easterbrook P. The future of viral hepatitis testing: innovations in testing technologies and approaches. BMC Infect Dis. 2017;17(Suppl 1):699.
  3. Liver cancer risk factors. American Cancer Society. Revised April 28, 2016. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  4. Hepatitis A, B, and C: learn the differences. Immunization Action Coalition. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  5. Hepatitis A. World Health Organization. July 5, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  6. Kahn A. Hepatitis B. Healthline. March 29, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  7. Hepatitis B. Are you at risk? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 2010. Publication No. 21-1074. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  8. Who’s at risk for hepatitis C. New York State Department of Health. Revised December 2011. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  9. Hepatitis A vaccination: what everyone should know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated April 24, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  10. Hepatitis B vaccination: what everyone should know. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated March 1, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  11. Hepatitis – the silent epidemic. American Liver Foundation. August 4, 2017. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  12. Hepatitis C kills more Americans than any other infectious disease [press release]. Atlanta, GA; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 4, 2016.
  13. Hepatitis risk assessment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated May 31, 2015. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  14. Viral hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated June 21, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2018.
  15. Hepatitis awareness month (May). US Department of Health & Human Services. Reviewed May 8, 2018. Accessed July 25, 2018.