Living with Chronic Hepatitis
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
Valdosta, GA - Nearly 5.3 million Americans are living with chronic
hepatitis B or C and most do not even know they are infected with the
disease, according to a recent Institute of Medicine report. Chronic
viral hepatitis can lead to serious liver problems including liver
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, which is a vital organ that
processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. Hepatitis
can be caused by increased alcohol use, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions; however, most often, it is caused by a
virus. The most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States are Hepatitis A, B and C.
Hepatitis A is spread through fecal-oral contact, usually from contact
with objects, food or drinks contaminated with the feces or stool of an
infected person. Hepatitis B is spread through blood, semen, or other
body fluids from an infected person entering the body of a non-infected, unvaccinated person. Hepatitis C is spread through the blood of an infected person entering the body of a non-infected person.
Hepatitis B and C can become chronic, life-long infections, unlike
Hepatitis A. Approximately 15,000 people die annually due to liver
cancer or other chronic liver disease related to viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis B and C have contributed to the increase in rates of liver
cancer in recent decades. At least half of new cases of liver cancer are from chronic hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Hepatitis A and B can both be prevented with vaccines. Cases of
hepatitis A have dramatically declined in the United States over the
past 20 years largely due to vaccination efforts. The Hepatitis A
vaccine is recommended for all children at one year of age and for
adults who may be at an increased risk.
CDC’s Know More Hepatitis campaign was announced in 2011 in an effort to have more Americans tested. Local public health officials encourage South Georgians to be tested for hepatitis by contacting your healthcare provider. Individuals can take an online assessment that is confidential to determine their risk for viral hepatitis at
For more information contact your local health department or South
Health District’s Infectious Disease program at 229-245-8711.