Office for the Aging

 
 

July 28 Is World Hepatitis Awareness Day. Here Is What You Need to Know
By Tanner Danz

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses: Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. These viruses usually result in a short-term, or acute infection; however, hepatitis B, C, and D 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 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 most 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 report Aging and Hepatitis C 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.