May is "Hepatitis Awareness Month"

The Alabama Department of Public Healthand the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urge the public to learn therisk factors of viral hepatitis.

The month of May has been designated as HepatitisAwareness Month, and May 19 is the first national observance of HepatitisTesting Day.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.{} Toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcoholuse, and bacterial and viral infections can all cause hepatitis. Hepatitis isalso the name of a family of viral infections that affect the liver. The mostcommon types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Here are some facts about hepatitis:

  • 3.5 to 5.3million Americans are living with chronic (lifelong) viral hepatitishepatitisB or hepatitis C. Most of them do not know that they are infected, placing themat greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease andincreasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.
  • A specificblood test is the only way to know if you have viral hepatitis.
  • Hepatitis Avirus spreads when a person ingests contaminated food or water, is exposed tocontaminated objects, or has been in close contact with an infected person.
  • Hepatitis Band C viruses can cause chronic hepatitis, leading to cirrhosis, liver failureand liver cancer.
  • Anyone canget hepatitis B or C, but some populations are disproportionately burdened withthese infections, including African Americans; Asian Americans and PacificIslanders; past and current injection drug users; persons born between1945-1965; and gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
  • Hepatitis Bcan be transmitted through exposure to blood or through sex. Hepatitis C ismainly transmitted through exposure to blood.
  • Hepatitis Aand B can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. There is no hepatitisC vaccine.
  • Treatmentsexist for both hepatitis B and C.

For more information about the different forms of hepatitis and the symptoms it can cause just go to the Alabama Department of Public Health's website.