May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month and Cobb & Douglas Public Health (CDPH) strongly encourages parents and caregivers to protect their loved ones by scheduling an appointment for the Hepatitis A and B vaccines. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend both vaccines for all children.
The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis is also the name of a class of viral infections that affect the liver. Two of the most common types are Hepatitis A (HAV) and Hepatitis B (HBV),
The Hepatitis A virus may be transmitted either by person-to-person contact, or by drinking contaminated water. Hepatitis B, which is a more serious liver disease, can be transmitted through contact with infectious blood or body fluids. “The bottom line is, the most effective way to prevent either virus is to receive the Hepatitis A and B vaccines,” said Karen Thomas, District Immunization Director for CDPH.
“About 3 million Americans have hepatitis C, most are baby boomers or people born from 1945-1965. Baby boomers are 5 times more likely to have hepatitis C. About 3 in 4 people don’t know they’re infected so they aren’t getting the necessary medical care and treatment. If you were born during these years, talk to your doctor about getting tested.” –CDC
If you are a baby boomer, get an antibody test to determine if you have ever had the hepatitis C virus. If you have an antibody to Hepatitis C, you will need a follow up test to determine if you still have hepatitis C. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but treatment can save your life.
Hepatitis D is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis D virus (HDV) and relies on HBV to replicate. It is uncommon in the United States. It is spread by contact with infectious blood, similar to how HBV is spread. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis D, but you can’t get hepatitis D if you don’t have hepatitis B first.
Hepatitis E is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus (HEV) that usually results in an acute infection. It does not lead to a chronic infection. While rare in the United States, Hepatitis E is common in many parts of the world. It is transmitted by ingestion of fecal matter, even in microscopic amounts; outbreaks are usually associated with contaminated water supply in countries with poor sanitation. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine for Hepatitis E.
Please talk to your primary care provider or visit http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/ if you have additional questions regarding Hepatitis. Vaccines for Hepatitis A and B are also available at all Cobb & Douglas Public Health locations. Call 770-514-2300 for more information.