World Hepatitis Day is today. It is an annual event to raise both public and institutional awareness of chronic hepatitis B (HBV) and chronic hepatitis C infection (HCV). The ambitious aim of this and other efforts is to the eliminate the worldwide burden of viral hepatitis over the next 15 years.
HBV and HCV infection are a global health problem that affects millions of people around the world, and are a major cause of liver failure, liver cancer and the associated mortality from these conditions. They are not just diseases that are limited to poor or developing countries and HBV and HCV affect tens of thousands of patients in the UK alone. Chronic HBV is the leading causing of primary liver cancer worldwide, and chronic HCV is one of the top three causes of cirrhosis and liver transplantation across Europe and the US.
Most people are unaware that they have HBV or HCV as by and large these infections do not cause symptoms. Both viruses can be acquired by blood-blood contact such as blood transfusion, sharing needles, or through medical procedures particularly in under-resourced countries. In the UK all blood products are screened for HBV and HCV since 1991, but if you had a blood transfusion before then you may be at risk. HBV can also be transmitted from mother to child during childhood and through sex in adulthood. Effective vaccination against HBV exists, and at risk groups are routinely offered the vaccine in the UK.
The diagnosis of HBV and HCV is easy to make on a simple blood test. It is important therefore to get yourself teste if you may have been at risk of exposure during your lifetime. This includes people who grew up in areas such as Africa, the Indian subcontinent and Far East Asia where HBV and HCV are more prevalent, if you ever shared needles or received a blood transfusion, or if you may have had sexual contact with someone who could have viral hepatitis. Early diagnosis can prevent the progression to end stage liver disease and liver cancer. Following new drug developments chronic HCV is now readily treatable in the vast majority of cases with an 8-12 week course of tablets with minimal side-effects. A similar cure for chronic HBV is not yet available, but highly effective and safe medication is widely available to control the infection and prevent the complications of liver disease.
So go get yourself tested, and if you are diagnosed with HBV or HCV make sure you get yourself referred to a Hepatologist (liver specialist).
Dr Yiannis Kallis specialises in:
Pancreatic, biliary & gallstone disease
Fatty Liver disease
Alcohol related GI / liver problems
GI and Liver Cancer
Liver health check
Dr Yiannis Kallis runs clinics at LycaHealth Canary Wharf on a Wednesday afternoon. LycaHealth is accepted by all major insurance companies. For more information or to book an appointment please call us on 0207 132 1440 or visit our website www.lycahealth.com