World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis. A group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Hepatitis affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every year.

World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunization Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World AIDS Day.

Hepatitis B is spread when blood or other body fluids from an infected person enters the body of another person. A pregnant woman who has hepatitis B can pass the virus to her infant at birth without timely intervention. In fact, 90% of infected infants develop a lifelong infection, and an estimated one-fourth of them will die prematurely. To address this public health concern, all pregnant women in the United States and many other countries are now routinely screened for hepatitis B. If a pregnant woman has hepatitis B, health care providers take extra effort to make sure her newborn gets timely vaccination to prevent this deadly disease. Completing the vaccine series can prevent transmission of the virus in over 90% of infants born to infected women. To protect every infant from potential infection, CDC recommends all babies get the first shot in the hepatitis B vaccine series before leaving the hospital, and completing the vaccine series as recommended.

Approximately 500 million people worldwide are living with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C. If left untreated and unmanaged, hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver scarring (cirrhosis) and other complications, including liver cancer or liver failure. While many people worry more about contracting AIDS than hepatitis, the reality is that every year 1.5 million people worldwide die from either hepatitis B or C faster than they would from HIV/AIDS.

Hepatitis groups, patients and advocates worldwide take part in events on 28 July to mark the occasion. Notably in 2012, a Guinness World Record was created when 12,588 people from 20 countries did the Three Wise Monkeys actions on World Hepatitis Day to signify the willful ignorance of the disease.

With better awareness and understanding of how we can prevent hepatitis we can eliminate this disease and save 4,000 lives a day. The inaugural International Hepatitis C Awareness day, coordinated by various European and Middle Eastern Patient Groups, took place on October 1, 2004, However many patient groups continued to mark ‘hepatitis day’ on disparate dates. For this reason in 2008, the World Hepatitis Alliance in collaboration with patient groups declared May 19 the first global World Hepatitis Day.

Following the adoption of a resolution during the 63rd World Health Assembly in May 2010, World Hepatitis Day was given global endorsement as the primary focus for national and international awareness-raising efforts and the date was changed to July 28 (in honour of Nobel Laureate Baruch Samuel Blumberg, discoverer of the hepatitis B virus, who celebrates his birthday on that date). The resolution resolves that “28 July shall be designated as World Hepatitis Day in order to provide an opportunity for education and greater understanding of viral hepatitis as a global public health problem, and to stimulate the strengthening of preventive and control measures of this disease in Member States.”

World Hepatitis Day is now recognized in over 100 countries each year through events such as free screenings, poster campaigns, demonstrations, concerts, talk shows, flash mobs and vaccination drives, amongst many others. Each year a report is published by the WHO and the World Hepatitis Alliance detailing all the events across the world.

World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to focus on actions such as:

  • Raising awareness of the different forms of hepatitis and how they are transmitted;
  • Strengthening prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases;
  • Increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunization programmes; and
  • Coordinating a global response to hepatitis.

The World Hepatitis Alliance provides global leadership and supports action that will halt the viral hepatitis death toll and improve lives. Through advocacy and policy work, building capacity among our members and raising global awareness, we aim to give viral hepatitis the priority it deserves.

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