May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Millions of Americans have chronic hepatitis; most of them do not know they are infected. Hepatitis is considered a viral infection since it is often caused by one of several known viruses. Since Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common viruses in the United States, The month of May has been designated to raise awareness and encourage people at risk to take action and get tested now.
What is Hepatitis?
The word "hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis is most often caused by a virus. In the US, the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications and certain medical conditions can also cause hepatitis. The following describes the three most common types of hepatitis:
Hepatitis A (HAV)
Hepatitis A is a contagious liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus. People who get hepatitis A may feel sick for a few weeks to several months but usually recover completely and do not have lasting liver damage. Hepatitis A is usually transmitted person-to-person by the fecal-oral route or through consumption of contaminated food or water. The best way to prevent HAV is by getting vaccinated.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
Hepatitis B is transmitted when blood, semen, or another body fluid from a person infected with virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen through sexual contact; sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment; or from mother to baby at birth. Chronic HBV can lead to serious health issues, like cirrhosis or liver cancer. The best way to prevent HBV is by getting vaccinated.
Hepatitis C (HCV)
Hepatitis C is mostly transmitted by blood. An estimated 2.4 million people are living with HCV in the United States, and many people do not know they are infected. Today, most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. For some people, HCV is a short-term illness but for more than half of people who become infected, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection and can cause serious health problems. It is the #1 cause of liver transplants and a leading cause of liver cancer. Most people with chronic HCV will not have symptoms for 20 years or more, however, even without symptoms, serious damage to the liver can occur. While there is no vaccine for HCV, treatments are available that can cure HCV. This is critical to prevent further liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
During the COVID-19 pandemic Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County is still committed to providing hepatitis C education and testing services. Please call 937.225.5556 for more information.