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5 things physicians should know about hepatitis on World Hepatitis Day

The global health community seeks to eradicate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.

The global community is marking World Hepatitis Day today in its efforts to eradicate one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.

At the 69th World Health Assembly held last year in Geneva, 194 governments adopted the World Health Organization’s global health sector strategy on viral hepatitis, the first of its kind, toward the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.

For clinicians, here are five things to know about hepatitis:

1. The number of Americans newly diagnosed with Hepatitis C hit a 15-year high in 2015, the CDC reported earlier this year, with an estimated 34,000 new infections. The viral disease is growing fastest among young adult drug users due to the risks from needle-sharing that coincide with the abuse of heroin and opioids.

2. Worldwide, very few of those infected receive testing and treatment, especially in impoverished and middle-income countries, according to the WHO. Around the world, about 257 million individuals are infected with chronic hepatitis B and 71 million people are infected with chronic hepatitis C. By the end of 2015, only 9 percent of HBV-infected people and 20 percent of HCV-infected people had been tested and diagnosed. This can result in the development of fatal liver disease and the unknowing transmission of the infection to others.

3. The Hepatitis C virus can survive outside the body at room temperature for up to 3 weeks, according to the CDC. The public health agency recommends that any blood spills, including dried blood, be cleaned with a solution of bleach (one part bleach to 10 parts water). Gloves should be worn when cleaning up blood spills.

4. A, B, C … D. Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus that depends on the presence of hepatitis B to survive, according to the World Health Organization. It occurs at the same time or as a super-infection with HBV. Globally, about 15 million people are chronically coinfected with hepatitis B and D with no effective antiviral treatment for hepatitis D. Hepatitis B immunization will, however, protect you against hepatitis D.

5. World Hepatitis Day has launched the #ShowYourFace campaign to highlight that the elimination of viral hepatitis is not just a public health goal, but an individual goal for millions of men, women and children. The personalized Polaroid photo campaign urges individuals to post pictures of their faces accompanied by I AM statements that center around empowerment, personal connection and understanding of their role in the elimination of hepatitis.

Here are a few people who shared their “faces” on social media:

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