Viral Hepatitis is a group of diseases that can damage your liver. The most common and dangerous are Hepatitis B and C which can be transmitted sexually or through contaminated blood. Certain behaviors, like using shared tooth brushes, razors, needles, piercing, tattooing or drug ingestion equipment, may place you at higher risk to getting those infections. Common symptoms include yellow skin (jaundice), belly pain, depression, joint pain, discolored or clay colored bowel movements and dark urine. Getting tested is important as some people don’t have symptoms until they are ill.
Globally, one in 12 people has chronic hepatitis B or C infection. About 1 million people die each year from chronic viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer in the United States and worldwide. And while it is the most common blood-borne infection and a leading infectious cause of death, claiming the lives of some 15,000 Americans each year, viral hepatitis often remains unrecognized as a public health priority.
Tips to prevent Hepatitis
Get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B (there is no vaccine for Hep-C).
Don’t share needles, syringes or other drug ingestion equipment (pipes, straws, joints) or “drug cooking” equipment.
Don’t share jewelry, piercing or tattooing equipment.
Practice safe sex. Never use an outdated latex condom when participating in sexual activities.
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. Excessive alcohol may cause long term liver damage.
To learn more about Hepatitis and what you can do to prevent or treat, view our Quarterly Health Initiative’s printable handout for consumers, for providers, or our webinar for providers.
Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have launched an online risk assessment tool for Hepatitis. It’s free, fast and you can get a personalized report right from your home computer or mobile device.