TO Eric Corrales | July 29, 2023 at 9:26 am
Every year on July 28, World Hepatitis Day is celebrated. This day aims to raise awareness of these diseases and emphasize the need for their timely prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 325 million people worldwide suffer from hepatitis B and/or C. There are an average of 1.5 million new cases of hepatitis B and C each year.
Dr. Marianela Alvarado, gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Latin University of Costa Rica, emphasizes the importance and relevance of these types of diseases as they represent a global health problem.
Alvarado mentions that hepatitis viruses are viruses that have an affinity for liver cells, so when they come into contact and multiply with said cells, they begin the process of inflammation and damage to the liver. This process can generate an “acute” or “chronic” diagnosis, which means it could be a disease that lasts for several years in the affected person. When this happens, hepatitis can lead to other health problems, such as chronic liver disease or cirrhosis.
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People can spread the virus before they even feel sick.
“There are five types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D and E, each with different forms of transmission and prevention measures. In the case of types A and E, they become infected by ingesting contaminated food or water. Therefore, to prevent it, it is extremely important to observe the rules of hygiene before eating food or drinks; also ensure that food handling and preparation are adequate. There is also a vaccine for the prevention of hepatitis A in the country,” the specialist explained.
In the case of type B hepatitis, it is transmitted through contact with blood and can be passed from mother to child during childbirth, but it is mainly contracted through contact with fluids (semen or vaginal secretions) during sexual intercourse.
“Some preventive measures are the use of condoms in all sexual relationships in case of risky sexual relationships, prenatal control in the case of pregnant women, and vaccination against hepatitis B in people with risk factors and healthcare workers,” the gastroenterologist added. .
Hepatitis C is mainly contracted through accidental contact with infected blood. This may be due to tattooing or piercing in unsanitary conditions, procedures with dirty medical equipment, using personal belongings of patients, using intravenous drugs with syringes containing a virus, sharing these tools with several people, or due to an accidental puncture.
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According to the World Health Organization, in America, only 18% of people with hepatitis B are diagnosed and only 3% receive treatment.
It can also be transmitted sexually. As mentioned earlier, preventive measures include the use of condoms, as well as ensuring that all equipment is sterile. There are medications for this type of hepatitis that are up to 95% effective, Alvarado said.
For its part, hepatitis D develops due to the progression of hepatitis B in patients. Therefore, the most effective way to prevent it is vaccination against type B, as well as early diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
“Hepatitis A and E both make an ‘acute’ diagnosis, while types B, C and D represent both ‘acute’ and ‘chronic’ cases. In a chronic condition, chronic liver disease can develop, which increases the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma or primary liver cancer, ”concluded Alvarado.
WHO mentions that in 2019 hepatitis B caused about 820,000 deaths, and hepatitis C about 290,000 deaths, mainly due to complications of advanced liver cirrhosis. or hepatocellular carcinoma (primary liver cancer).
This organization has as its goals:
▪ Reduce the number of new cases of hepatitis B and C by 90%.
▪ Reduce by 65% mortality from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
▪ Treat at least 80% of people who meet its criteria.
The specialist emphasizes the importance of recognizing the need for timely diagnosis of viral hepatitis, especially those that can cause chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, such as hepatitis B and C, since hepatitis B has treatment to control it and prevent its progression to cirrhosis. and hepatitis C is currently treated, resulting in a 95% cure rate.