World Hepatitis Day
For World Hepatitis Day, learn more about the different types of viral hepatitis that impact millions worldwide and what is being done to help eliminate hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis — a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E — affects millions of people worldwide, causing both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) liver disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) data show an estimated 257 million people living with chronic hepatitis B and 71 million people living with chronic hepatitis C worldwide. Viral hepatitis causes more than one million deaths each year. While deaths from tuberculosis and HIV have been declining, deaths from hepatitis are increasing.
World Hepatitis Day is July 28th and is an opportunity to learn the global burden of this disease, CDC’s efforts to combat viral hepatitis around the world, and actions individuals can take.
What is CDC doing to help combat hepatitis globally?
The vision of CDC is to eliminate viral hepatitis in the United States and globally. When resources permit, CDC collaborates with WHO and other partners to help countries experiencing high rates of infection prevent and control viral hepatitis.
For example, to decrease the burden of hepatitis B infection, CDC provides financial and technical assistance to the WHO and high burden countries’ immunization programs like those in the Solomon Islandsexternal icon, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodiaexternal icon, Sierra Leone, Pacific Islands, Laos, and Haitiexternal icon. Activities supported include:
- Implementing innovative interventions to increase hepatitis B vaccine coverage at birth
- Documenting the burden of hepatitis B in children
- Supporting regions and countries in verifying the achievement of hepatitis B control and elimination goals
To further decrease the burden of all types of viral hepatitis, CDC also assists WHO in developing policies for surveillance, testing, care and treatment. In addition, CDC works with countries to develop and implement national control and elimination programs. Some countries that CDC has recently supported include Pakistan, China, and Georgia. This work helps identify best practices that may serve as models for other countries, including the United States. CDC’s international work helps reduce the disease burden globally, decrease the risk for travelers, and improve the health of people migrating to the United States.
What are the different types of hepatitis occurring around the world?
The five hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D, and E – are distinct and can spread in different ways, affect different populations, and result in different health outcomes.
- Hepatitis A: Worldwide, hepatitis A usually spreads when a person unknowingly ingests the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated by small, undetected amounts of stool from an infected person. In the United States, hepatitis A is most commonly spread from close personal contact with someone infected, either through having sex, caring for someone who is ill, or using drugs with others. Hepatitis A does not cause a chronic, lifelong infection and is rarely fatal, but it can cause serious symptoms. Vaccination is the best way to prevent hepatitis A. However, good hand hygiene, improved sanitation, and increased food safety can also prevent hepatitis A.
- Hepatitis B: Globally, the hepatitis B virus is most commonly spread from an infected mother to her baby at birth and among unvaccinated children. People can also become infected from contact with blood and other body fluids through injection drug use, unsterile medical equipment, and sexual contact. Hepatitis B is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, but is also high in the Amazon region of South America, the southern parts of eastern and central Europe, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Hepatitis B can range from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic illness. If infected at birth or during early childhood, people are more likely to develop a chronic infection, which can lead to liver cirrhosis or even liver cancer. Getting the hepatitis B vaccine is the most effective way to prevent hepatitis B. WHO recommends that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, followed by 2 to 3 additional shots. In many parts of the world, widespread infant vaccination programs have led to dramatic declines of new hepatitis B cases.
- Hepatitis C: The hepatitis C virus is spread through contact with blood from an infected person. People can get infected through sharing any equipment used to prepare and inject drugs and through unsafe medical injections and other medical procedures. Hepatitis C can also spread, although rarely, from an infected mother to her child at birth. Hepatitis C can cause both acute and chronic infections, but most people who get infected develop a chronic infection. A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. With new treatments, over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be cured within 2 to 3 months, reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis. The first step for people living with hepatitis C to benefit from treatments is to get tested and linked to care. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, but research in this area is ongoing.
- Hepatitis D: The hepatitis D virus is spread through contact with infected blood. Hepatitis D only occurs in people who are already infected with the hepatitis B virus. People who are not already infected with hepatitis B can prevent hepatitis D by getting vaccinated against hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis E: The hepatitis E virus is spread mainly through contaminated drinking water. However, pregnant women infected with hepatitis E are at considerable risk of mortality from this infection. Hepatitis E is rare in the United States, but is found worldwide, with the highest number of infections in East and South Asia. Improved water quality and sanitation can help prevent new cases of hepatitis E.
Do you need to be vaccinated and/or tested for hepatitis?
CDC is continuing to lay the foundation for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat, both domestically and abroad. Hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are the most common types of viral hepatitis in the United States. To see if you need to be tested and/or vaccinated for hepatitis A, B, or C, take CDC’s online Hepatitis Risk Assessment, which is based on CDC recommendations for the United States.