This Sunday marks World Hepatitis Day.
Poster courtesy of worldhepatitisalliance.org
What is World Hepatitis Day?
In 2010, the World Health Assembly decided that July 28 should be designated as World Hepatitis Day. This day provides an opportunity for a greater understanding of Hepatitis as a global issue and to look at further preventative measures.
28 July was chosen for World Hepatitis Day in honour of the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E. These present the greatest concern due to the burden of illness and death and the potential for epidemics.
However, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E are most closely linked to lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation. Out of these two, Hepatitis A poses more of a serious risk to people’s health.
LIFESAVER has already looked at Hepatitis A, but given that its World Hepatitis Day this Sunday I thought I could provide you with a few more facts about the virus.
What is Hepatitis A?
The hepatitis A virus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route. This can be through ingestion of contaminated food and water, or through direct contact with an infectious person. Hepatitis E is also transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food.
Effects of Hepatitis A
Every year there are an estimated 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A worldwide. The infection is rarely fatal like Hepatitis B and C but it can cause debilitating symptoms.
Epidemics can be quick to grow and can have significant economic impacts on communities as people recovering from the virus can take months to return to work or school.
In developing countries with poor sanitary conditions and hygienic practices, about 90% of children have been infected with the Hepatitis A virus before they reach the age of 10. However, they rarely become re-infected in adulthood as they develop immunity.
Image courtesy of frontiersoftravel.com
Photo courtesy of nation.com.pk
The most common preventative measures used to combat Hepatitis A are:
- Improved sanitation – proper disposal of sewage, regular hand-washing with safe water
- Immunisation – there are several vaccinations available worldwide
- Sufficient supplies of safe drinking water
- Vaccines for Hepatitis E virus (HEV) have been developed but are not widely available.
How can LIFESAVER help?
LIFESAVER can provide communities, relief camps and families with the technology to provide themselves with clean, sterile drinking water for drinking, cooking and cleaning purposes.
This will reduce the effectiveness of the transmission of Hepatitis A and E via the faecal-oral route as well as improving WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) standards.
<http://www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/en/home.html> [Accessed 24 April 2013]
LIFESAVER blog, 2013. What do you know about Hepatitis A. [online] Available at: <http://www.lifesaversystems.com/_blog/LIFESAVER_Blog/post/What_do_you_know_about_Hepatitus_A/ > [Accessed 24 July 2013].
WHO, 2013. Hepatitis A Fact Sheet N°328. [online] Available at: <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/index.html> [Accessed 24 April 2013].
WHO, 2013. Hepatitis: frequently asked questions. [online] Available at: <http://www.who.int/csr/disease/hepatitis/world_hepatitis_day/question_answer/en/> [Accessed 24 April 2013].
 WHO, 2013. Hepatitis A Fact Sheet N°328. [online] Available at: <http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs328/en/index.html> [Accessed 24 April 2013].
 WHO, 2013. Hepatitis A Fact Sheet N°328.