Today is World Digestive Health Day (WDHD) 2018, supported by the World Gastroenterology Organisation (WGO).

Digestive disorders can range from obesity to cancers to diarrhoeal disorders, the latter of which is ranked in the top 10 causes of mortality globally. WDHD aims to increase general public awareness of prevention, prevalence, diagnosis, management and treatment of digestives diseases and disorders and this year’s focus is viral hepatitis, B and C.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and has a range of causes, including infection with a virus. There are five types of hepatitis – A, B, C, D, and E – all of which spread in different ways and require different treatments. Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most commonly found in Australia, and vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B.

Hepatitis B is the most common liver infection in the world and can often go undiagnosed, and therefore untreated. The hepatitis B virus (HBV) attaches to healthy liver cells and multiplies, which can trigger an immune response and if not managed properly, can result in scarring of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure. It is commonly transmitted during childbirth from mother to baby, but can also be transmitted through exposure to infected bodily fluids such as through needle sharing, sexual contact or blood transfusions (rare in Australia). Cases of HBV that do not resolve after 6 months are considered chronic and can last a lifetime. HBV is a major cause of primary liver cancer, the mortality rates of which are climbing faster than any other cause of cancer death in Australia.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread through blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing needles. While there is currently no preventative vaccine, there are effective treatments that reduce long-term complications and can potentially prevent transmission. Between 20-30% of those infected may clear the virus within the first 6 months without treatment, however the infection is considered chronic if it lasts longer than 6 months. People will often experience no symptoms at all, and others may take many years to develop.

VIVA! has had the privilege of being involved in campaigns for hepatitis and other digestive disorders, and will continue to help raise awareness of prevention, diagnosis and management of these conditions.

If you think you may have been exposed to infected blood or bodily fluids, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

More information on hepatitis can be found here.