Florida Health promotes testing and awareness on World Hepatitis Day

TALLAHASSEE—The Florida Department of Health joins organizations and partners across the globe in recognizing July 28 as World Hepatitis Day. Every year, this day is set aside to raise awareness about the global burden of viral hepatitis and promote influential prevention strategies.

“If left undetected, viral hepatitis can cause serious health consequences or even death, but a large portion of people living with hepatitis B and C are unaware of their status,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “This year’s launch of the ‘Find the Missing Millions’ campaign hopes to encourage screening and diagnosis, while linking those living with the disease to care. I encourage everyone to be sure of their hepatitis status by knowing their risk factors for contracting viral hepatitis and getting tested.”

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. While they can all produce similar symptoms, each type of hepatitis virus is transmitted in different ways and affects different populations.

Hepatitis A is usually a short-term infection and does not become a long-term infection. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also begin as short-term infections but in some people, the virus remains in the body, and causes chronic, or lifelong, infection. There are vaccines to prevent hepatitis A and hepatitis B; however, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, but it is now curable.

Chronic hepatitis B or C can go undetected for decades. Most people are unaware of their status because they have no symptoms. Many are not even aware of the factors that put them at risk, such as:

  • Having a blood transfusion before 1992;
  • Sharing needles for tattooing, piercing or injecting drugs (even once);
  • Being of certain Asian or Pacific Islander descent;
  • Being on long-term hemodialysis;
  • Sharing personal items like razors, tooth brushes or nail clippers; and
  • Not using a condom when having sex.

CDC also recommends that adults born between 1945 and 1965 (Baby Boomers) get tested for hepatitis C because people born during these years are five times more likely than other adults to be infected with hepatitis C.

The department’s Hepatitis Prevention Program works to prevent the transmission of viral hepatitis through testing, diagnosis and linkage to care. The Hepatitis Prevention Program works with county health departments and community-based organizations in Florida to implement this strategy.

For more information about hepatitis vaccine and testing availability, contact your local health department through the county health department locator, or refer to the department’s Florida Hepatitis Resource Guide.

Learn the ABCs of hepatitis from the Centers for Disease Control and Health Protection (CDC) or take an online risk assessment.