World Hepatitis Day raises awareness about virus

Vaccines, treatment options available for hepatitis

Throughout the world, more than 300 million people have one of three types of hepatitis and are not aware of it. Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver. The liver is the body’s largest internal organ and is crucial to the breakdown of nutrients and activation of enzymes in the body. Hepatitis enlarges the liver and prevents it from working properly, which can lead to severe scarring or even cancer.

July 28 was World Hepatitis Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about prevention, screening and treatment.

“World Hepatitis Day really brings global awareness to the barriers and misconceptions associated with hepatitis. The purpose of the day is to encourage people to talk to their health care provider about possible screenings, vaccinations or treatment options if they are affected by the virus,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist for Norton Healthcare.

Viral hepatitis is one of the greatest global health threats today and results in 1.34 million deaths per year. The three types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. While all three types affect the liver, it’s important to be aware of some of the key differences:

  • Hepatitis A tends to be a short-term illness. The liver can heal itself in two to six months. It is primarily transferred through exposure to infected feces. Greater Louisville has seen a recent increase in hepatitis A cases. Hepatitis A can be prevented by a vaccine. Students entering public schools in Kentucky this fall are required to have a hepatitis A vaccine.
  • Hepatitis B infects the body longer than hepatitis A, usually taking the liver up to six months to recover. Hepatitis B rarely causes severe liver damage, however it can if not treated appropriately. This type of hepatitis is easily spread, especially through sexual activity or by direct contact with bodily fluids. A hepatitis B vaccine can prevent infection.
  • Hepatitis C can begin as a short-term infection, however often leads to a lifelong illness. Like hepatitis B, this virus can be contracted sexually or by direct contact with bodily fluids. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, however there a variety of drugs to treat it.

All three types of hepatitis share similar symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored stool
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

“The earlier you get tested, the easier it is to treat hepatitis. Doing so can ensure the safety and well-being of you and your loved ones,” Dr. Schulz said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a screening for people born between 1945 to1965 (baby boomers).

“This particular segment of the population is five times more likely to have been exposed to hepatitis C than other adults,” Dr. Schulz said. “It’s not uncommon for those with hepatitis C to live many years without experiencing any symptoms, thus it’s incredibly important to be screened.”

Do you need a hepatitis screening?

Hepatitis screening services are offered at all Norton Community Medical Associates primary care offices and Norton Immediate Care Centers throughout Louisville and Southern Indiana.  To find a provider or location closest to you, visit NortonHealthcare.com or call (502) 629-1234, Option 3.

Norton Complex Care Clinics offer comprehensive treatment for hepatitis C at two convenient locations:

Norton Complex Care Clinic – Downtown

Schedule an appointment or learn more.

Call (502) 629-6560

Norton Complex Care Clinic – Corydon

Schedule an appointment or learn more.

Call (812) 734-0912


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