Hepatitis: a killer of 1 million a year

Hepatitis: a killer of 1 million a year

Are you at risk for hepatitis? Could you possibly have it and not know it?

Today, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day, intended to consider those questions and think about protecting yourself and others from hepatitis, a chronic inflammation of the liver.

One in 12 people are living with either chronic hepatitis B or C, making the prevalence of this infection higher than HIV or any cancer, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.

And in the U.S., many people living with the infection don’t know they have it, health officials say.  It can come without symptoms, but still be spread to others.

Left untreated, Heptatis B and C combined kill about one million people a  year, and one in three people have been exposed to one or both viruses, according to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
 
Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with infected blood and most major body fluids. Hepatitis C is spread through direct contact with infected blood, but it may also, rarely be passed through body fluids. Both, if untreated or unmanaged, can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer or liver failure, according to the health district.

Local health officials advise the following prevention steps:
— Get vaccinated for hepatitis B. (There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.)
— Practice safe sex.
— Use clean needles for tattoos and body piercings and don’t share needles.
— Don’t share razors, toothbrushes or other personal items.
— Seek medical care if you’re exposed to blood or needle sticks.

A support group for hepatitis patients (along with their friends and family members) co-sponsored by the health district, meets the second Wednesday of the month from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Fritz Room of the Carle Forum, 611 W. Park St., U.

For more information about hepatisis: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis

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