May is Hepatitis Awareness Month May 17, 2013 By Caitlin Bradford Leave a Comment Key Takeaways: Both Hepatitis A and B can be prevented with a hepatitis vaccine. The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. Infection with viral hepatitis can turn into a lifelong chronic disease. Many people with chronic hepatitis are not aware of their infection. Hepatitis is most often caused by viral infections. However it can also be caused by heavy alcohol use, medications, and some medical conditions. Infection with viral hepatitis can turn into a lifelong chronic disease, and it increases the risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. As such, viral hepatitis is a concern not to be taken lightly. May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, and this is an opportune time to evaluate whether you need your Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine or a titer test for these diseases. What Is Hepatitis? The word “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver. For travelers, hepatitis that results from viral infections are the most relevant forms of the disease. There are many forms of viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and G. Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne infection in the United States, with nearly 4 million chronic infections. There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C. However, both hepatitis A and B can be prevented with a hepatitis vaccine. Hepatitis A is typically spread through contaminated food and water, such as food prepared by an ill restaurant worker. Hepatitis B is spread through blood, such as during childbirth or from blood transfusions. This chronic disease is endemic in parts of the world, including much of Asia and Africa. Hepatitis B can become a chronic, lifelong infection, yet many people with chronic hepatitis are not aware of their infection. Startlingly, about 15,000 Americans die each year of liver cancer caused by viral hepatitis. Hepatitis Vaccines Thanks to the hepatitis A vaccination that has been widely available for the past 20 years, rates of infection have significantly decreased. According to the CDC, the hepatitis A vaccine is recommended for all children age 1 and older as well as adults at an increased risk of infection, including restaurant, childcare, and health care workers as well as travelers to certain parts of the world. The hepatitis A vaccination requires two shots. The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for infants, with the first shot to be given immediately after birth, as well as older children and adolescents who have not been previously vaccinated. The second shot is typically given one month later, and the third shot is given six months after the first. Adults who are at an increased risk of infection, such as health care workers, childcare workers and travelers are also typically advised to get the Hepatitis B vaccination series. Getting vaccinated against hepatitis A can prevent serious illness. Vaccination for hepatitis B reduces the lifetime risk of liver damage and liver cancer. What are you waiting for? Have you been vaccinated against Hepatitis? May 19 Is Hepatitis Testing Day The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has designated May 19, 2013, as National Hepatitis Testing Day. Each year, this day serves as a reminder for people at risk to be tested. Anyone at risk of infection should contact the nearest Passport Health clinic to get a titer test to check for immunity to hepatitis A, B, and C. If you’re not immune, schedule an appointment to receive the hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Hepatitis A, B and C are serious diseases. Fortunately, you can protect yourself against infection and the subsequent complications of chronic liver disease. The team at Passport Health is here to provide you with hepatitis testing, education, and vaccinations year-round, but especially during Hepatitis Awareness Month!