May is "Hepatitis Awareness Month" - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

May is "Hepatitis Awareness Month"

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The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge the public to learn the risk factors of viral hepatitis.

The month of May has been designated as Hepatitis Awareness Month, and May 19 is the first national observance of Hepatitis Testing Day.

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.

Here are some facts about hepatitis:

  • 3.5 to 5.3 million Americans are living with chronic (lifelong) viral hepatitis—hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Most of them do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.
  • A specific blood test is the only way to know if you have viral hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis A virus spreads when a person ingests contaminated food or water, is exposed to contaminated objects, or has been in close contact with an infected person.
  • Hepatitis B and C viruses can cause chronic hepatitis, leading to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
  • Anyone can get hepatitis B or C, but some populations are disproportionately burdened with these infections, including African Americans; Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; past and current injection drug users; persons born between 1945-1965; and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
  • Hepatitis B can be transmitted through exposure to blood or through sex. Hepatitis C is mainly transmitted through exposure to blood.
  • Hepatitis A and B can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. There is no hepatitis C vaccine.
  • Treatments exist for both hepatitis B and C.

For more information about the different forms of hepatitis and the symptoms it can cause just go to the Alabama Department of Public Health's website.