Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) holds a hepatitis awareness day on July 28. This year's theme is "Know hepatitis, act now." Hepatitis is preventable in many cases when safety precautions are followed and vaccines are covered. Still, more than 1.45 million people die as a result of hepatitis each year. Many people, especially in developing countries, are exposed to the hepatitis virus on a regular basis. However, anyone anywhere can get hepatitis. No matter where you live, awareness about how to stay safe from hepatitis can save your life.
Hepatitis is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. There are five main strains of hepatitis (A, B, C, D and E), and while each strain is unique, all five cause liver inflammation. Hepatitis can lead to severe liver disease, which can also lead to death.
How To Stay Safe
The first step to staying safe is knowing how hepatitis spreads. Hepatitis A and E are usually caused by ingesting unsafe food or water. Here are a few ways to protect against hepatitis A and E:
- Get the hepatitis A vaccine, which is widely available. While there is also a vaccine for hepatitis E, it is not yet widely available.
- Cook food thoroughly and eat while it's still hot. Avoid raw meat and shellfish.
- Always wash hands with soap and water after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food.
- Wash fruits and vegetables in clean water.
- Drink clean water.
Hepatitis B, C and D are typically caused by contact with infected bodily fluids. Stay safe by following these guidelines:
- Get the hepatitis B vaccine. This vaccine is widely available and it also helps protect against hepatitis D. Unfortunately there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
- Never share toothbrushes, razors or needles.
- If you have hepatitis and are pregnant, talk to your doctor about how you can reduce the risk of transmitting it to your baby.
- Only get tattoos and piercings from places that use sterile equipment.
- Choose oral medications over injections when possible.
- Get tested if you: had medical or dental procedures done in an area that doesn't use sterile equipment; received a blood transfusion in a country that doesn't test for hepatitis; had a mother with hepatitis when you were born; have ever injected drugs; are living with HIV.
Hepatitis isn't always preventable, but it is in many cases when you know how to stay safe! Unfortunately, not everyone has access to clean drinking water or vaccines, but awareness can help more people learn how to stay safe and avoid risks when possible.
Stay Safe From Hepatitis In The Military
Being at risk for disease is one of the many risks one accepts when serving in the military. Hepatitis is one such disease military members and veterans are at risk for. Luckily, you can protect yourself by knowing and avoiding the risk factors for hepatitis.
The VA recommends that any veteran who was exposed to risk factors be checked for hepatitis. Veterans born between 1945 and 1965, or those who have additional risk factors listed above should be tested. For veterans who do have hepatitis, the VA offers hepatitis resources such as treatment, educational materials, medication and long-term care. In cases where hepatitis has become severe enough to cause too much damage to the liver, the VA also provides liver transplant surgery.
Make A Difference With A Car Donation
World Hepatitis Day is a great time to learn more about this disease and help spread awareness. You can also take today as an opportunity to help disabled veterans. If you have an unwanted car, donate it to Vehicles For Veterans to support programs for disabled veterans. In return for your donation, you'll receive free towing, a tax deduction and the knowledge that you've helped a veteran. Donate your car now by calling 1-855-811-4838 or filling out our online car donation form.