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World Hepatitis Day Focused on Awareness, Testing and Treatment for Hepatitis B and C

>>The American Liver Foundation joins the World Hepatitis Alliance on July 28th as part of World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness of the serious implications of hepatitis B and C.


The theme of the day, “Know It, Confront It and Get Tested” speaks to the need to increase knowledge of hepatitis, to remove the stigma of the disease, and take down barriers from seeking treatment. It is estimated there are 12 million people in the world with hepatitis.

Hepatitis C is often called the silent killer as there may be no symptoms for 20-30 years after the person is infected. The disease is transmitted when infected blood enters the body. The most common ways of infection are sharing needles with IV drug use or having received infected blood in a blood transfusion prior to 1992.

Recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s issued draft guidelines recommending a one-time hepatitis C test for everyone born from 1945 to 1965 (the baby boomer generation). One in thirty people in this generation has been infected with hepatitis C and the overwhelming majority don’t know it. Left untreated, hepatitis C causes serious liver diseases, including liver cancer, the fastest rising cause of cancer-related deaths, and is the leading cause of liver transplants in the United States.

Hepatitis B virus is highly infectious and about 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. In nine out of ten adults, acute hepatitis B infection will go away on its own in the first six months. However, if the virus becomes chronic, it may cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer after up to 40 years, but in some cases as little as five years after diagnosis.

The hepatitis B virus is transmitted between people through contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. Unlike hepatitis C, there is a vaccine that can prevent hepatitis B infection.


The Difference Between Hepatitis B and C

  • While there is a vaccine that protects against hepatitis B infection, there is no vaccine available for hepatitis C
  • Both viruses can be contracted though blood-to-blood contact
  • Hepatitis B is more infectious than hepatitis C and can also be spread through saliva, semen and vaginal fluid
  • In the case of hepatitis B, infection can occur through having unprotected sex with an infected person. Please note that this is much rarer in the case of hepatitis C
  • While unlikely, it is possible to contract hepatitis B through kissing. You cannot contract hepatitis C through kissing
  • Neither virus is easily spread through everyday contact. You cannot get infected with hepatitis B or C by shaking hands, coughing or sneezing, or by using the same toilet. There are different treatments for the two viruses. While treatment can control chronic hepatitis B, it can often cure hepatitis C

Page updated: July 13th, 2012