By: Barbara Schwartz
July 28 is World Hepatitis Day We have Memorial Day and Mothers’ Day. Fathers’ Day, July 4th, and Labor Day. Do we really need a Hepatitis Day in the middle of all our summer celebrations?
Currently, scientists have identified Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E and there are only vaccinations available for Hepatitis A and B¹. You can go to the CDC website for all kinds of information about how each version of the hepatitis virus is spread, how it is treated and how you can protect yourself and your family. As an ASCP certified Medical Laboratory Scientist and an educator, here is what I know.
- In the United States, children are vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B.
- If you were born before 1982 or so, you may not have been vaccinated against Hepatis B as a child².
- If you were born before 1995, you may not have been vaccinated for Hepatitis A³.
- If you are unsure whether you had the vaccinations for Hepatitis A or B, your physician can order blood tests to see if you are immune. If you are not immune, you can be vaccinated!
- You cannot get Hepatitis from the vaccines!
- Hepatitis C is transmitted through sexual contact or used IV drug needles. It is far more common than you may think! There is no vaccine but there IS effective treatment that is much better than some of the older treatments. Often, there are no symptoms. A simple blood test can show whether you’ve been infected and will allow for treatment before possible fatal liver damage occurs.
The liver is a complicated organ and one that we cannot live without. It’s also the only organ that can regenerate if part of it is removed! Fancy stuff! The liver detoxifies our blood and helps us to metabolize many medications. The liver makes certain factors that help our blood clot. It helps us to digest fats, secretes bile, and stores certain minerals. When the liver is not working properly, as in Hepatitis infection, our entire body is affected. So be good to your liver! Protect it. And talk with your healthcare provider about Hepatitis and how you can prevent it. The Centers for Disease Control has a great quiz to see if you are at risk for Hepatitis. Check it out at bit.ly/0cdcHRA.