What is World Hepatitis Day?
World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July bringing the world together to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It’s usually the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol.
Hepatitis A is caused by the hepatitis A virus. It’s usually caught by consuming food and drink contaminated with the poo of an infected person, and is most common in countries where sanitation is poor.
Hepatitis A usually passes within a few months, although it can occasionally be severe and even life threatening. There’s no specific treatment for it, other than to relieve symptoms like pain, nausea and itching.
Hepatitis B is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which is spread in the blood of an infected person. It’s a common infection worldwide and is usually spread from infected pregnant women to their babies, or from child-to-child contact. In rare cases, it can be spread through unprotected sex and injecting drugs.
Hepatitis B is uncommon in the UK. Most cases affect people who became infected while growing up in part of the world where the infection is more common, such as southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most adults infected with hepatitis B are able to fight off the virus and fully recover from the infection within a couple of months.
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus and is the most common type of viral hepatitis in the UK. It’s usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person. In the UK, it’s most commonly spread through sharing needles used to inject drugs. Poor healthcare practices and unsafe medical injections are the main way it’s spread outside the UK.
Hepatitis C often causes no noticeable symptoms, or only flu-like symptoms, so many people are unaware they’re infected. Around 1 in 4 people will fight off the infection and be free of the virus. In the remaining cases, it’ll stay in the body for many years.
Hepatitis D is caused by the hepatitis D virus. It only affects people who are already infected with hepatitis B, as it needs the hepatitis B virus to be able to survive in the body. Hepatitis D is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact or sexual contact. It’s uncommon in the UK, but is more widespread in other parts of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America.
Hepatitis E is caused by the hepatitis E virus. The number of cases in Europe has increased in recent years and it’s now the most common cause of short-term (acute) hepatitis in the UK. The virus has been mainly associated with the consumption of raw or undercooked pork meat or offal, but also with wild boar meat, venison and shellfish.
Hepatitis E is generally a mild and short-term infection that does not require any treatment, but it can be serious in some people, such as those who have a weakened immune system.
Alcoholic hepatitis is a type of hepatitis caused by drinking excessive amounts of alcohol over many years. The condition is common in the UK and many people do not realise they have it. This is because it does not usually cause any symptoms, although it can cause sudden jaundice and liver failure in some people.
Stopping drinking will usually allow your liver to recover, but there’s a risk you could eventually develop cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer if you continue to drink alcohol excessively. You can reduce your risk of developing alcoholic hepatitis by controlling how much you drink.
Autoimmune hepatitis is a rare cause of long-term hepatitis in which the immune system attacks and damages the liver. Eventually, the liver can become so damaged that it stops working properly.
Treatment for autoimmune hepatitis involves very effective medicines that suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. It’s not clear what causes autoimmune hepatitis and it’s not known whether anything can be done to prevent it.
Find out more at nhs.uk/conditions/hepatitis