Could you have viral hepatitis and not know it? Millions of people in the U.S. are walking around with this disease unaware, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The government has launched a new action plan to prevent and treat viral hepatitis, a disease called a silent epidemic because it can persist for decades without symptoms and 65-75 percent of Americans who have it are unaware they’re infected.
Hepatitis, some forms of which are spread through sex and injection drug use, is a leading infectious cause of death and the leading cause of liver cancer.
The HHS plan aims to increase the number of people aware that they have Hepatitis B and C, reduce the number of new Hepatitis C infections and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of Hepatitis B.
This would be accomplished through increased awareness, more training for health professionals and more access to prevention and treatment services through expanded insurance coverage coming with the Affordable Care Act. But one government agency can't do it alone, said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden. It's going to take take cooperation on all levels of government and participation of commnities, health care providers and the private sector.
Some information from a CDC website about Hepatitis:
“Hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
What is the difference between Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C are diseases caused by three different viruses. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently. Hepatitis A appears only as an acute or newly occurring infection and does not become chronic. People with Hepatitis A usually improve without treatment. Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also begin as acute infections, but in some people, the virus remains in the body, resulting in chronic disease and long term liver problems. There are vaccines to prevent Hepatitis A and B; however, there is not one for Hepatitis C. If a person has had one type of viral hepatitis in the past, it is still possible to get the other types.