World Hepatitis Day July 28, 2018

You might think why “World Hepatitis Day”? The answer is: to improve knowledge about the disease and to increase access to testing and treatment services. Here are only three facts that make people all over the globe raise awareness about hepatitis:

  1. Today, only 1 in 20 people with viral hepatitis know they have it. And just 1 in 100 with the disease is being treated.
  2. Viral hepatitis B and C are major health challenges, affecting 325 million people globally. They are root causes of liver cancer, leading to 1.34 million deaths every year.
  3. Hepatitis B and C are chronic infections that may not show symptoms for a long period, sometimes years or decades. At least 60% of liver cancer cases are due to late testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C.

Low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed in order to achieve the global elimination goals by 2030.

Viral hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is the most common type of hepatitis worldwide. It is caused by five different viruses (hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E):

  • Hepatitis A and hepatitis E behave similarly: they are both transmitted by the fecal-oral route, are more common in developing countries, and are self-limiting illnesses that do not lead to chronic hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and hepatitis D are transmitted when blood or mucus membranes are exposed to infected blood and body fluids, such as semen and vaginal secretions. Viral particles have also been found in saliva and breast milk. However, kissing, sharing utensils, and breastfeeding do not lead to transmission unless these fluids are introduced into open sores or cuts.

Hepatitis B and C can present either acutely or chronically. Hepatitis D is a defective virus that requires hepatitis B to replicate and is only found with hepatitis B co-infection. In adults, hepatitis B infection is most commonly self-limiting, with less than 5% progressing to chronic state, and 20 to 30% of those chronically infected developing cirrhosis and/or liver cancer. However, infection in infants and children frequently leads to chronic infection.

Unlike hepatitis B, most cases of hepatitis C lead to chronic infection. Hepatitis C is the second most common cause of cirrhosis in the US (second to alcoholic hepatitis). In the 1970s and 1980s, blood transfusions were a major factor in spreading hepatitis C virus. Since widespread screening of blood products for hepatitis C began in 1992, the risk of acquiring hepatitis C from a blood transfusion has decreased from approximately 10% in the 1970s to 1 in 2 million currently.


Health Insurance

You’ve probably heard the saying: “Sickness comes on horseback, but departs on foot”. It’s very true. So, think about an extended health insurance plan that provides affordable coverage for unexpected health expenses and many ongoing health-related services not covered by OHIP, including prescription drugs, basic dental care, vision care, medical supplies, such as diabetic and incontinence supplies, transportation to and from medical appointments, and assistive devices, including hearing aids.

Remember, even if you are covered with supplementary private health insurance through your employer it might not be enough for your needs. Moreover, this health insurance ends when you change your job. And if you are a self-employed, having a medical insurance policy is just a must.


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