Office for the Aging

 
 

July 28: World Hepatitis Awareness Day

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. All of these viruses cause a short-term, or acute infection. However, the hepatitis B, C, and D viruses can also cause a long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis, which can lead to life-threatening complications such as cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure, and liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the most common chronic blood borne infection.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 3.2 million people in the US are living with a hepatitis C infection. The hepatitis C virus is a leading cause of liver cancer, and each year approximately 15,000 deaths are caused by hepatitis C associated liver cancer or end stage liver disease.

In New York State, about 200,000 people are living with hepatitis C, but the state Department of Health (DOH) estimates that 75%—or 150,000 people—do not know their status. Hepatitis C related deaths now exceed HIV-related deaths among New Yorkers, even though a majority of people with hepatitis C can be cured if they are diagnosed early enough and have access to care.

To increase the number of New Yorkers that know their hepatitis C status, on October 23, 2013, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a law that requires every individual born between 1945 and 1965 (baby boomers) receiving inpatient hospital care or primary care be screened for hepatitis C. The CDC estimates that 75% of those living with hepatitis C are baby boomers.

Detecting the disease early is a key to successfully fighting it.

For further reading, the HCV Advocate’s Aging and Hepatitis C report takes a comprehensive look at the disease and how it affects the aging population.

For more information:

  • The World Hepatitis Alliance has promotional materials about World Hepatitis Day that you can use to raise awareness about viral hepatitis.
  • Are you at risk for viral hepatitis? You can take this 5-minute survey and assess your risk If you are at risk, get tested.
  • July 28 was chosen for World Hepatitis Day in honor of the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus.
  • Visit the New York State Department of Health website for more information on viral hepatitis types .