World Hepatitis Day (WHD)
is celebrated on the 28th
of July each year.
The day was selected to honor Nobel Laureate Prof. Blumberg, discoverer of hepatitis B virus (HBV) who celebrates his birthday on that day.
WHD was endorsed by World Hepatitis Alliance since 2007 and it was only in May 2011 that WHO began to lend its support. So this year in July, WHD will be celebrated as disease awareness day for the very
first time globally.
1.5 million people around the world die each year from hepatitis. One in twelve people are chronically affected by Hepatitis B or C.
The core component of hepatitis campaign thus far has been, "Am I number 12?"
This year's theme for WHD 2011 is "This is hepatitis—Know it, confront it. Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere."
Viral hepatitis is caused by viruses A,B,C,D,E, F and G . Hepatitis B and C are the most deadly of all the viruses. During a bout of hepatitis the liver becomes inflammed and is rendered incapable of carrying out its normal functions.
Hepatitis A can spread through contaminated food while Hepatitis B and C spread by sharing contaminated needles, sex, or coming in contact with contaminated blood products.
Nausea, vomiting, fever and fatigue are the common symptoms of hepatitis infection.
Viral hepatitis is diagnosed with blood tests that analyze the levels of liver enzymes and viral antibodies.
5% of patients with acute hepatitis B infection and 80% of patients with acute hepatitis C infection are at risk of developing chronic infection. If left untreated, hepatitis B and C can scar the liver and cause cirrhosis, may damage the liver or, may lead to other complications such as cancer.
Hepatitis A and B can be prevented through vaccination.
What Happens on WHD
Despite the large number of people who are affected by the disease, Hepatitis does not get the attention that other communicable diseases such as AIDS or TB receive.
The day enables people to share their individual experiences and challenges people to confront the disease by understanding it well. Post cards, banners and posters have been developed as part of the campaign material. Recently an online material creation tool has been created for patient groups world wide to make their own 'theme' materials such as T-shirts, mugs, posters and stickers.
World Hepatitis Day provides a platform to acknowledge viral hepatitis as a major global health issue and take steps to diagnose, treat and prevent it. WHD 2011 also hopes to create awareness
of chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C and to influence policy making regarding health issues.
One day is certainly not enough to control hepatitis but it is a beginning. This year all the 193 countries associated with the WHO will
be recognizing and even celebrating WHD for the first time.
What a fine start to a great cause!