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7/28: WORLD HEPATITIS DAY
The World Health Organization wants to reduce the number of people infected with hepatitis B and C globally by 2030. What is interesting to know is that this goal could already be achieved medically with the vaccinations and therapies available today. The biggest hurdle to accomplishing this is the immense number of infections that are undiagnosed. Therefore, this year's motto for World Hepatitis Day (organized by the World Hepatitis Alliance) is once again; "Hepatitis: Find the missing millions!".
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is the medical term for inflammation of the liver. It occurs as a defense reaction of the immune system against infectious agents or substances that are toxic to the liver. Disturbances of blood flow in the liver or autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks its own liver or bile duct cells, can also be causes. The most common are toxic hepatitis (from excessive alcohol consumption), virus-related hepatitis (hepatitis A-E) and (non-alcohol-related) fatty liver hepatitis (in overweight people or those suffering from diabetes). A distinction is made between an acute and a chronic infection. "Acute" means illness lasting less than six months; and if it lasts longer, it is known as “Chronic Hepatitis”.
In the Spotlight: Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a form caused by infection with the Hepatitis C virus (RNA virus). In most cases it takes a chronic, liver-damaging course. According to the WHO Global Hepatitis Report, there are an estimated 71 million people infected with hepatitis C worldwide, although there are significant geographical differences. Each year around 400,000 worldwide people die of hepatitis C and Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) affects around 170 million people worldwide. With secondary diseases such as liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma as well as high therapy costs, this viral disease is definitely a global health issue.
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) was identified for the first time in 1988 and has been classified with 7 genotypes (compositions GT 1-7). The incubation or seroconversion time (time from infection to antibody appearance) can be between 2 and 26 weeks, but typically is between seven and eight.
The Route of Infection and Diagnostics
To prevent infectious liver inflammation, knowledge of the transmission route is of particular importance. Humans are the only known natural host, and infection with HCV usually occurs parenterally, for example by bypassing the digestive tract, via contaminated needles with intravenous drug consumption. In principle, however, it can also be sexually transmitted or from a mother to their unborn child. Depending on the virus concentration in the blood, HCV can also be found in other body fluids such as saliva, sweat, tears and semen. However, infection through this body fluid is very unlikely. The disease is diagnosed via an antibody detection against the virus as well as a test for viral load (HCV-RNA detection).
Why Such Pressure for Action?
Hepatitis C infections can increase the likelihood of developing of other diseases, especially chronic ones. 50-85% of hepatitis C infections turn into chronic forms, and 40-76% of these CHC sufferers develop at least one so-called extrahepatic manifestation: that is, symptoms that are often clinically uncharacteristic and mild and are caused by fatigue, unspecific upper abdominal complaints, performance insufficiency or joint problems are marked. However, chronic HCV infection increases mortality from both hepatic and extrahepatic causes. There are a number of effective drugs against hepatitis C. But only those that get diagnosed can receive treatment. For an effective therapy to reach the patient in a reasonable time frame, the active assistance of the family doctor is particularly important. Because liver diseases can affect anyone!
The German website lebertest.de offers a free self-test online with which you can anonymously determine your personal risk for liver disease. You can also find more information about World Hepatitis Day at welthepatitistag.info