With Veterans Day comes reports about the lack of adequate mental health care for men and women returning from war. There is another, invisible health issue threatening veterans of all ages–hepatitis B.
Few veterans have ever been screened or treated for hepatitis B though their infection rate is four-times the national average.
The mood was euphoric. It was a love fest, actually. Last week, more than 600 policy makers, public health experts, and representatives from non-governmental organizations and patient advocacy groups from 80 countries were invited to participate in the first World Hepatitis Summit in Scotland hosted by the World Hepatitis Alliance in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). The Hepatitis B Foundation was pleased to be invited and to speak during the pre-summit meeting as well.
Around the world, older adults bear the greatest burden of hepatitis B. Born before the childhood vaccination became available, about 4.7 percent of U.S. adults over age 50 have been infected and their chronic hepatitis B rate is nearly two-fold higher than in younger adults.
Telling someone you have hepatitis B is almost always followed by the question, “how did you get it?”
The question can feel like an invasion of privacy or an indictment. Behind the question lurks a desire for reassurance that hepatitis B won’t happen to them, but of course it can. And that’s why we should answer and tell our story.
When my daughter, who has chronic hepatitis B, packed for her freshman year of college, I peppered her with warnings about the need for standard precautions and condoms. I suggested wording for a future conversation where she would disclose her infection and negotiate safe sex with a potential partner.
By Joan M. Block, RN, BSN
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hepatitis B Foundation
Tuesday, July 28, is World Hepatitis Day, which commemorates the birthday of Dr. Baruch S. Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for identifying the hepatitis B virus and developing a vaccine to prevent it. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the hepatitis B virus – a discovery that has literally saved hundreds of millions of lives. Continue reading "Celebrate World Hepatitis Day By Making Hepatitis B History"→
Today, all pregnant women are routinely screened for hepatitis B, but a growing number of doctors say this single test doesn’t go far enough to protect the health of women and children.
In a commentary published in the medical journal Pediatrics, infectious disease specialist Dr. Ravi Jhaveri calls for a mandatory second test in pregnant women infected with hepatitis B. This test would measure the amount of hepatitis B virus (HBV) in her body (called viral load).
Father’s Day, June 21, is a day to celebrate the contributions men make in their children’s lives. It’s also a good day for fathers to acknowledge how valuable they are to their families and how important it is to take care of their health.
Living with chronic hepatitis B can be challenging. Here are some things dads can do to take care of themselves or family members infected with hepatitis B.
1. Get outside and soak in some sunlight and some vitamin D. People with hepatitis B who have vitamin D deficiencies have higher rates of liver damage, cirrhosis and cancer. A healthy diet provides vitamin D, but 80 percent of our vitamin D comes from 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight two to three times a week. So get outside and walk, garden, exercise and soak in some healthy sunlight.
The World Health Organization (WHO) will release their first management guidelines for hepatitis B virus (HBV) by the end of 2014. For the first time, the guidelines will be geared towards resource-constrained countries, where the disease burden is high but resources are lacking. The new guidelines will be particularly welcome in African nations, where the incidence of viral hepatitis is increasing.
The overall scope of the World Health Organization’s new management guidelines for hepatitis B will include prevention, screening, and treatment of chronic hepatitis B and will be geared towards resource-constrained countries. Thus, WHO’s guidelines will be valuable for countries where the disease burden is high but resources are lacking.
Yet, only two of the African member states that responded to the WHO Survey have a written national strategy to prevent and control viral hepatitis.
In Ghana, where the incidence of viral hepatitis is increasing, the sero-prevalence rate is high among blood donors (6.7%), pregnant women (6.5%) and school
aged children (15.6%), according to Mr. Theobald Owusu-Ansah, president of the Theobald Hepatitis B Foundation and the Hepatitis B Coalition in Ghana.
Compounding the lack of public health plans and national investment are factors common in many low-resource countries: limited awareness of hepatitis B among the public and providers, poor access to care, expensive therapies, and few liver specialists.
Global agencies are beginning to recognize the urgency of the situation. In addition to the WHO, the World Health Assembly is taking steps to combat the growing crisis. The Assembly adopted a second resolution on viral hepatitis in May 2014 that advises governments on how to prioritize and coordinate public health efforts.
But governments cannot tackle these problems alone, Mr. Owusu-Ansah believes. He urges governments to partner with commercial and nonprofit organizations to mobilize much-needed expertise and resources.