World Hepatitis Day is held on 28 July. This day is also the birthday of doctor Baruch Blumberg, an American physician and researcher who discovered the antigen for hepatitis B (HBV) and developed a screening test and vaccine for it. He received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work in 1976.
The biggest killer after tuberculosis
Hepatitis, or liver infection, is the biggest killer after tuberculosis and nine times more prevalent than HIV. There are five main types of viral hepatitis: type A, B, C, D, and E. Spread through infected blood, hepatitis B and C affect 325 million people globally and cause 1.4 million deaths every year.
Hepatitis A and B are preventable with immunisation. Hepatitis vaccines are included for risk groups in the National Immunisation Programme in Finland. Risk groups contain people such as haemophilia patients, intravenous drug users and those in close contact with them as well as men who have sex with men. If someone has an increased risk of exposure to hepatitis A or B because of work or business trips, their employer will pay for the immunisation. If you are about to travel, check the vaccination recommendations for your destination at https://www.rokotustieto.fi/en/travel.
There is no immunisation against other types of hepatitis. Hepatitis C can only be treated with medication. The expensive treatment works on 90% of patients. Hepatitis D is rare and only occurs in those who are infected with HBV. Like hepatitis A, hepatitis E virus is present in the faeces of infected persons and is most often transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. Hepatitis E is usually only severe in pregnant women.
It is estimated that globally over 80% people with hepatitis do not receive the necessary treatment. On World Hepatitis Day, the World Health Organisation WHO is calling on all countries and WHO partners to invest in the eradication of hepatitis.