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28th July is not a cause for celebration, but a cause for activism, according to the organizers of the annual World Hepatitis Day (WHD). The day aims to raise global awareness of viral hepatitis and to influence change in the way hepatitis is managed and prevented, with the overall aim of eliminating this killer disease.
Viral hepatitis, according to organizers of the World Hepatitis Day, is one of the world’s leading causes of death, accounting for 1.34 million deaths every year – as many as malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C together cause 80 percent of all cases of liver cancer.
Viral hepatitis is a global problem and affects people from all countries in the world. And the worst thing is that 90 percent of people living with hepatitis B and 80 percent of those with hepatitis C are unaware they have the condition – meaning they are unknowingly transmitting the disease to others and increasing theirs and others risk of fatal liver disease.
Hepatitis B and C can be prevented. But greater awareness is needed. Here’s what you need to know about hepatitis, the risks, and the possibilities for prevention and cure.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a type of disease that causes inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by a viral infection, or it may be caused by drinking too much alcohol.
Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It’s usually the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by drinking alcohol. Hepatitis can cause serious long-term problems like scarring of the liver, liver damage, and liver cancer.
What are the Symptoms of Hepatitis?
Many people do not have any symptoms of hepatitis but if symptoms are present they include muscle pain and joint pain, a high temperature, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, itch skin, and jaundice.
Long-term hepatitis may not present any symptoms until the liver stops working, and then it may only be detected in blood tests.
Different Types of Hepatitis
Hepatitis A is caused by a virus. It is most commonly transmitted through food and drink that is contaminated with the feces of a person infected with the virus, and it is most common in developing countries. This is why travellers to countries where sanitation is poor are advised to exercise caution – wash hands before eating, not eat food that has not been properly prepared, and avoid drinking tap water. Hepatitis A usually recedes after a few months although it can sometimes cause life-threatening issues.
You can be vaccinated against hepatitis A if you are traveling to a country where the virus is common.
Hepatitis B is also caused by a virus and it is spread by contact with the blood of a person infected with the virus. Many people who contract hepatitis B recover fully after a few months but others develop a long-term infection that can lead to liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is caused by a virus and it is normally spread via blood-to-blood contact. You may be able to fight off the virus and your body will remain free of it. But sometimes it will stay in the body and cause chronic hepatitis C. This can result in liver scarring and liver failure.
Insurance Cover for Hepatitis
If you are an American living in the US your medical insurance may cover treatment of hepatitis, or it may not. There are many new drugs that can completely cure hepatitis but these are expensive. Usually you need to meet several strict requirements set out by the health insurer in order to have your treatment covered by insurance. There are also financial assistance programs to cover the cost of drugs if you do not receive insurance cover.
Again, it is important to check with an insurance provider to find out what coverage exists for hepatitis treatment, and whether it is cost effective.
If you are an American traveling abroad and you already suffer from hepatitis, you may be able to get travel medical cover that takes your condition into account. Make sure that you check with your travel insurance provider to ascertain whether you can include hepatitis as a pre-existing medical condition, and whether you will be eligible for payment for treatment while you are out of the country.
If you are non US citizen and traveling to the US as a visitor, make sure that you check with your visitors insurance provider to understand how hepatitis can be covered. If it is considered a pre-existing medical condition, opt for plans that can provide visitors insurance with pre-existing conditions coverage.