CARPHA urges the region to take action against hepatitis

“Hepatitis claims the lives of many people and puts a heavy economic burden on communities and health systems,” stated Dr. C. James Hospedales in observance of World Hepatitis Day 2016. The executive director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) went on to say it is important that persons learn more about the disease and use that knowledge to safeguard themselves.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver commonly caused by hepatitis virus. There are five types (A, B, C, D and E) that can cause acute and chronic infections and liver inflammation, which may lead to liver cancer and, even death. In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are more than two million persons living with hepatitis B, and more than four million living with hepatitis C.

Hepatitis is fully preventable and treatable, and there are effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B, and over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be cured with treatment (WHO). Although preventive measures change depending on the type of hepatitis virus and the routes of transmission, a way to prevent infection is using basic hygiene rules and safe sex, avoid contact with infected blood.

CARPHA recommends the following tips for preventing infection:

• Practice good hygiene.

• Practice safe sex.

• Use only clean needles for tattoos and body piercings.

• Do not share needles.

• Do not share razors, toothbrushes or other personal items.

• Get medical care if you are exposed to blood or needle sticks.

Earlier this year, the World Health Assembly (WHA) adopted three global health sector strategies on viral hepatitis, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) for the period 2016-2021. The hepatitis strategy, which is the first of its kind, presents the first-ever global targets for viral hepatitis. These targets include a 30% reduction in new cases of hepatitis B and C by 2020 and a 10% reduction in mortality. Approaches will include preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B; “harm reduction” for people who inject drugs; and increase access to treatment for hepatitis B and C (WHO).

World Hepatitis Day is observed every year on July 28th. This year’s theme is “Know Hepatitis and Act Now”, and CARPHA urges governments, healthcare workers and the public to take the necessary steps to learn more about the disease. (Caribbean News Now0

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