Millions of Americans have chronic viral hepatitis and most of them do not know it. May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month and the Mid-South Liver Alliance explains the ABCs of viral Hepatitis to determine if testing or vaccines are warranted.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver most often caused by a virus. In the USA, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, B and C. While each can produce similar symptoms, each hepatitis virus affects the liver differently, has different routes of transmission, and typically affects different populations. Fortunately, effective vaccines are available to help prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B.
Millions are currently living with viral hepatitis, but many do not know they are infected, as individuals can live with the disease for decades without having symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they may include:
- jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes),
- loss of appetite,
- dark urine,
- joint pain,
- abdominal pain,
- nausea, and vomiting.
Very rarely, viral hepatitis can cause liver failure and death. For all types of viral hepatitis, symptoms are often less common in children than in adults.
One of the terrible consequences of Tennessee’s opioid crisis is the rise in hepatitis C infections. Approximately 70,000 Tennesseans are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Nearly half do not even know they are infected. Between 2006 and 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there was an astonishing 364% jump in hepatitis C infections throughout central Appalachia, including Tennessee. Until recently, hepatitis C disproportionately affected baby boomers, but due to the nation’s opioid crisis, emerging health threats like hepatitis C have extended their reach to a broader population.
Many of the newly infected live in rural communities, are under the age of 30, and have been dealing with the effects of opioid use.
The Mid-South Liver Alliance was formed as a nonprofit on March 11, 2021, and is committed to improving, educating, advocating, and supporting children, adults and families impacted by Chronic Liver Disease in the Mid-south.
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