Word Hepatitis Day is July 28, 2016
Hepatitis is often mentioned in the media. Hepatitis is a cluster of diseases characterised by inflammation of the liver. This large organ performs many essential functions in the human body, including filtering the blood, making proteins and hormones, storing vitamins and detoxifying the body. Alcohol, obesity, certain medications and chemical injury can cause a noninfectious hepatitis resulting in poor liver function. The most common types are Hepatitis A, B and C- three unrelated viruses.
Hepatitis A is caused by eating infected food or water. It is more common in developing countries that are popular travel spots. This viral infection is rarely fatal but can cause many weeks of illness. There is a non-funded vaccination available that is extremely effective against Hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is spread by contact with infected semen, blood or other body fluids. Though most commonly contracted from sexual contact it can be acquired from breast milk, a human bite or sharing a toothbrush with an infected person. Hepatitis B vaccination is a routine vaccine in the childhood schedule, though antibodies do not develop for all people. Healthcare workers, plumbers, educators and high risk travellers should consider vaccination.
Hepatitis C is usually spread through direct contact from the blood of an infected person. It is estimated there are 50000 people in New Zealand with Hepatitis C but only 40% are aware they have this. It is an important diagnosis because more than 60% of cases will develop chronic liver disease left untreated. There have been remarkable developments in the treatment of Hepatitis B and C in recent years. There has been additional Pharmac funding and a hope of eradication of Hepatitis C in the future. Talk to your doctor if you may be at risk of having the disease. Perhaps take special care of your liver this month by participating in Dry July!