Hep B Blog

Do You Know Your Hepatitis Facts from Fiction?

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month!

In recognition of May as Hepatitis Awareness Month, Liver Cancer Connect reviews some important facts and dangerous fiction about chronic hepatitis B and C- the world’s leading causes of liver cancer. First, the facts:

FACT #1. Viral hepatitis is a silent killer of millions

  • Hepatitis B infection is the world’s leading cause of liver cancer, which is the second deadliest cancer worldwide. In the US, 1 in 20 Americans has been exposed to hepatitis B (about 12 million people), while about 5 million Americans have hepatitis C.
  • Hepatitis C is the main cause of liver cancer in the US (because more Americans have hepatitis C) and the main reason for liver transplantation.
  • Viral hepatitis is truly a silent killer. Of the 400 million people in the world with chronic hepatitis B and the 170 million with chronic hepatitis C, most don’t even know they are infected.

FACT#2. Testing saves lives!

  • The CDC recommends all US baby boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) get a one-time test for hepatitis C, because one in 30 boomers has been infected with hepatitis C.
  • In its recent draft recommendations, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends testing persons at high risk for hepatitis B, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Testing saves lives by detecting the liver disease early and by identifying people who are not infected and who therefore can be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

FACT #3. HBV is preventable and treatable; HCV is now curable!

  • Hepatitis B is preventable! So if you do not have hepatitis B, get vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine– the world’s first anti-cancer vaccine- offers lifelong protection.
  • If you do have hepatitis B, talk to a healthcare professional about whether you need to get treated with one of the seven therapies that keep the virus under control.
  • There’s no vaccine against hepatitis C, but it is now curable!

Now let’s tackle the fiction:

FICTION #1. “Hepatitis B is sexually transmitted, so we don’t need to vaccinate infants.” Wrong! Hepatitis B can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth (perinatal transmission). In fact, in some countries where hepatitis B is very common, this is the main form of transmission.

FICTION #2. “I am in a “high-risk” group, but I don’t have any signs or symptoms. So I don’t need to get tested.” Yes you do! Most people with chronic hepatitis B or C do not know they are infected. Many people live with chronic hepatitis for decades without symptoms or feeling sick. And in people with chronic hepatitis B infection, liver cancer can develop with or without cirrhosis, so testing and regular monitoring is essential.

FICTION #3. “I heard I can catch hepatitis B from the vaccine.” No! You cannot get hepatitis B from the vaccine because it does not contain any live virus. The vaccine is made from a synthetic yeast product in a laboratory. The most common side effects are redness and soreness in the arm where the shot is given.

So, why wait? Get tested! May 19 is National Hepatitis Testing Day in the US. To find a place to get a free or low cost test for hepatitis, check out the CDC sponsored Hepatitis Testing page.


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