The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is launching a campaign, ‘Find the Missing Millions’, this year to mark the World Hepatitis Day (July 28). The campaign aims to spread awareness about hepatitis, its symptoms, treatment and prevention. According to this campaign, viral hepatitis is one of the biggest global health threats of the present day and age, causing 1.34 million deaths a year. As per WHA, 300 million people are living with hepatitis completely unaware of the same. However, this can be changed and the start is spreading awareness about this deadly infection.

The first step of spreading awareness about an infection is to know about it.

So, what exactly is hepatitis?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. This inflammation can either be self-limiting or can lead to severe liver damage, including scarring of liver, cirrhosis or even liver cancer. In most cases, hepatitis is caused by viruses. Hepatitis B is the most common form of serious liver infection in the world.

Variants of hepatitis

There are five main hepatitis viruses — A, B, C, D and E. Out of these, Hepatitis B and C are the ones that can progress to chronic infections like liver cirrhosis and cancer. And as reported by World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), hepatitis is known to cause two in every three liver cancer deaths.

READ | Urgent action needed to find, test and treat missing viral hepatitis patients: WHO

Prevention

There is no denying that this liver disease is contagious and is spreading fast and fatally, but the good news is that it can be easily prevented. To learn how the disease can be prevented, it is equally, if not more, important to have knowledge of how it spreads from one person to another. The two main conduits for hepatitis to spread are through contact between two people by bodily fluids or infected faeces.

To prevent a hepatitis infection, you should become extra conscious of your surroundings and their hygiene. For this purpose, one should check the water supply — for drinking as well as other reasons — one receives through pipelines. Everyone should be encouraged to avoid tap water at all costs. Washing hands is another way one can prevent a hepatitis infection. Yes! Washing your hands can surprisingly prevent both Hepatitis A and E. It is also of great importance that safe sex be practised because Hepatitis B has a tendency to spread from one person to another through unsafe sexual contact.

Vaccines

There are also vaccines available for preventing Hepatitis A and B. Unfortunately, we don’t have any vaccines for the remaining types of hepatitis infections. However, medical practitioners have found a cure for Hepatitis C in the new effective antiviral medications. Hepatitis D can be prevented too, if one gets a shot for Hepatitis B because apparently, the Hepatitis D virus needs Hepatitis B virus to survive which becomes luckily impossible if one has one’s vaccine chart figured out.

Liver care

The liver is an extremely important organ without which it is impossible for any human being to survive. Your liver helps remove toxins from the blood, stores energy for later use, helps speed up digestion of fats, fights bleeding and manufactures substances that fight infections. It is of great significance that this valuable organ be protected from any form of infection.