Hepatitis: The Life, The Fight, The Hope

Almost every commentary about hepatitis starts with heartbreak and ends with hope, and this blog post isn’t any different. The statistics certainly make for grim reading: 296 million people worldwide live with hepatitis B and 58 million with hepatitis C, and there are millions of new infections every year.

statistics about people with hepatitis for world hepatitis day 2021

But give science her dues. She’s got this.

Vaccinations, antiviral medications, and other treatments can help prevent or manage different types of the disease, and complete hepatitis elimination could be a real possibility one day.

For now, there’s something science can’t cure: The myths and misinformation that surround the condition. So to honor World Hepatitis Day 2021 on July 28, SOURCE EXPLORER clears up the confusion about those who live with and fight against hepatitis and the life scientists who hope to eradicate it for good.

 

A (Very) Brief History of Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. It’s affected humans for millions of years, a pre-historic disease that continues to impact people worldwide. It’s either self-limiting — not serious enough to require treatment — or causes scarring, cirrhosis, or liver cancer.

There’s not one hepatitis but many. Five main types (A, B, C, D, and E) are of the greatest interest to life scientists because they can cause severe illness and death. Hepatitis B and C are the most common forms of the disease in the United States. At the same time, hepatitis A is more prevalent in certain parts of Africa, Asia, Central/South America, and eastern Europe.

The problem for scientists is knowing how many people have hepatitis. For example, it’s thought 2.4 million people have hepatitis C in the U.S., but this is just an estimate. It’s tricky to predict prevalence because so many have hepatitis and don’t know it.

pieces of paper with Hepatitis written on the #HepCan'tWait

How Do You Get Hepatitis?

virus almost always causes hepatitis. However, certain genetic and medical conditions and drug or alcohol use can also cause it.

How Do You Get Hepatitis A?

  • Through close contact with someone who has the disease (through sex, sharing contaminated food or drink, handling contaminated objects used by the infected person, etc.)

How Do You Get Hepatitis B?

  • Through close contact with someone who has the disease (sex, sharing injectable drug equipment, contact with the infected person’s blood, etc.)
  • Being born to a mother who has the disease
  • Through an accidental injury such as a needle injury
  • By sharing items contaminated by blood or other fluids such as razors and nail clippers

How Do You Get Hepatitis C?

  • Through close contact with someone who has the disease (sex, sharing injectable drug equipment, contact with the infected person’s blood, etc.)
  • Being born to a mother who has the disease
  • Through an accidental injury such as a needle injury
  • After getting a tattoo or piercing with unsterilized equipment
  • By sharing items contaminated by blood or other fluids such as razors and nail clippers
black and white image of girl with tattoo on back
“tattooed girl” by deserttrumpet is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Who Has Hepatitis?

Hepatitis can affect people of all ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. However, those who engage in the following behaviors could increase their chances of getting the disease:

  • Unsafe sex
  • Consumption of illegal drugs
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol
  • Sharing personal items like razors and nail clippers
  • Getting tattoos and piercings with unsterilized equipment

There are different risk factors for different hepatitis types. The problem is, the media often lumps ‘hepatitis’ into one big category and perpetuates stereotypes about the people who live with the disease, portraying them as ‘irresponsible’ or ‘immoral.’ This isn’t true at all.

One unreported fact is that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the racial and ethnic groups most heavily affected by hepatitis B, representing just five percent of the U.S. population but half of all people living with this form of the disease.

Challenges of Living With Hepatitis

As you can see from above, people get hepatitis for all kinds of reasons. Still, there continues to be a stigma around those who have it. Unfortunately, living with hepatitis is tough enough without these negative attitudes. That’s why public awareness initiatives like World Hepatitis Day are so valuable.

Current Hepatitis Treatments

It all depends on the type of hepatitis:

Hepatitis A

  • Preventative vaccine
  • Management of symptoms

Hepatitis B

  • Preventative vaccine
  • Management of symptoms
  • Antiviral medication for management of chronic infection

Hepatitis C

  • Preventative harm reduction programs
  • Antiviral medication for chronic infection

Potential Treatments for Hepatitis

The life scientists that read Source Explorer are working on potential treatments for hepatitis behind the scenes, and there could be exciting discoveries on the horizon. Some of the most interesting developments include:

  • Advances in new medication for curing hepatitis B and hepatitis D
  • Hepatitis C treatments like elbasvir and grazoprevir (Zepatier)

How to Help

asian mother with hepatitis holding her baby

Get involved in World Hepatitis Day by:

  • Raising awareness on social media
  • Dispelling misconceptions about the disease
  • Supporting organizations like the World Hepatitis Alliance
  • Supporting life science!

Final Word

Almost all hepatitis stories start with a “why me?” But this disease is no longer a death sentence, and there are various preventative and management treatments out there. Life scientists like those featured on SOURCE EXPLORER continue to make scientific breakthroughs. Hopefully, they will eradicate hepatitis forever.

This World Hepatitis Day, pledge to the World Hepatitis Alliance.  #HepCan’tWait

 

 

SOURCE EXPLORER is where Life Science Professionals come to discover the latest case studies or white papers, find relevant webinars or podcasts for professional growth, and uncover rock star suppliers they can hire for their next project. We are Where Life Science Lives.

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