|Medical Services ● Disease Control|
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
May is hepatitis awareness month. One in 12 people worldwide are infected with either hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus. Because most of the 500 million infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C are asymptomatic and are unaware of their infection, they may spread the virus to others without knowing. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantion in the United States.
The most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States are hepatitis A, B and C. These three viruses are very different, but all cause liver disease. Hepatitis A is an infection lasting no more than six months, while hepatitis B and C can develop into lifelong chronic illness.
Hepatitis A is a virus that is spread by the fecal-oral route. A person becomes infected with the virus by ingesting fecal matter from contaminated objects, food or drinks. People at greater risk of hepatitis A infections include those traveling to countries where hepatitis A is common, having sexual contact with someone who has hepatitis A, or living in the same household as a person infected with hepatitis A.
Hepatitis B is a virus that is spread from person to person through infected blood or sexual secretions. Those at increased risk for infection include anyone who has sex with an infected individual and those who share needles, syringes or other drug injection equipment. Hepatitis B also can be passed from an infected mother to her baby at birth. It is very important for all hepatitis B positive pregnant women be reported to the North Dakota Department of Health, in order to ensure that mother and child receive proper treatment in order to reduce transmission of hepatitis B to the child.
Hepatitis C is spread from person to person through infected blood. Those at increased risk for hepatitis C infections include those who share needles or other equipment to inject drugs, who received a blood donation before 1992, or who have received tattoos or piercings in unsterile environments. Baby boomers, those born during 1945 through 1965, represent 75 percent of adult cases of hepatitis C; thus, CDC recommends all baby boomers get tested for hepatitis C.
Thirteen public health units and clinics across North Dakota offer free-of-charge hepatitis C screening and hepatitis A and B vaccinations to those at risk. These sites include:
Throughout hepatitis awareness month, the NDDoH is encouraging individuals to Get Tested! If you are at risk for hepatitis, knowing your status can help save your life. There are treatment options available for hepatitis, but keeping your liver healthy is very important. Avoiding alcohol and drug consumption, eating a healthy diet and exercising are all ways a person can promote a healthy liver.
For information on hepatitis, please contact the NDDoH hepatitis program, at 800.472.2180 or 701.328.2378, or visit our website at www.ndhealth.gov/disease/hepatitis.
Copyright © 2010 North Dakota Department of Health