July 28, 2011 is the first World Hepatitis Day, marked by the United Nations World Health Organization to increase public awareness about the three forms of hepatitis and about the other diseases and conditions that it causes.
The WHO declares: "It provides an opportunity to focus on specific actions such as: strengthening prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases; increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunization programmes; and coordinating a global response to hepatitis".
There are an estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A annually
Key facts (*)
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness.
It is spread by faecal-oral (or stool to mouth) transmission when a person ingests food or drink contaminated by an infected person's stool.
The disease is closely associated with poor sanitation and a lack of personal hygiene habits, such as hand-washing.
An estimated 1.4 million cases of hepatitis A occur annually.
Epidemics can be explosive in growth and cause significant economic losses: 300 000 were affected in one Shanghai outbreak in 1988.
Improved sanitation and the Hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat the disease.
Hepatitis B is the most common form of the disease, having affected two billion people round the world
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person - not through casual contact.
About 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with the virus and about 350 million live with chronic infection. An estimated 600 000 persons die each year due to the acute or chronic consequences of hepatitis B.
About 25% of adults who become chronically infected during childhood later die from liver cancer or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) caused by the chronic infection.
The hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
Hepatitis B virus is an important occupational hazard for health workers.
Hepatitis B is preventable with a safe and effective vaccine.
Hepatitis C has chronically infected around 130 million people worldwide
Key facts (*)
Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
HCV infection sometimes results in an acute symtomatic illness. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong chronic condition that can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
HCV is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person.
About 130-170 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus, and more than 350 000 people die from hepatitis C-related liver diseases each year.
HCV infection is curable using increasingly effective antivirals.
Despite ongoing research, there is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C virus infection.
(*) Key facts from WHO website
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