Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can become chronic, life-long infections which can lead to liver cancer. Millions of Americans are living with chronic viral hepatitis, and many do not know they are infected.
One of the main findings from last year’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) report was the public and health care professionals lacked knowledge and awareness about viral hepatitis.The term “hepatitis” means inflammation of the liver, and it refers to a group of diseases, each caused by a unique virus. In the United States, the most common types of viral hepatitis are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.3 important facts about viral hepatitis
- Two types of viral hepatitis, (Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C) can lead to chronic, life-long infections
- Many people with chronic viral hepatitis do not know they’re infected
- Chronic viral hepatitis can lead to liver cancer
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can lead to chronic, life-long infectionsHepatitis B is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis B virus. When first infected, a person can develop an “acute” or short-term infection. Some people are able to clear the virus but for others, especially those infected at birth or as young children, the infection remains and leads to a “chronic,” or lifelong, illness. While Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable, many people became infected before the Hepatitis B vaccine was widely recommended for children and adults at risk.Hepatitis C is a liver disease that results from infection with the Hepatitis C virus. Most people who become infected with the virus - up to 85% – go on to develop a chronic infection. For reasons that are not known, about 15%–25% of people will “clear” the virus without treatment. Many people with chronic viral hepatitis do not know they’re infectedMany people with chronic viral hepatitis do not have symptoms and do not know they are infected. Even though a person has no symptoms and may appear healthy, the virus can still be detected in the blood and damage to the liver can still be occurring. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take up to 30 years to develop, and damage to the liver can silently occur during this time. Chronic viral hepatitis can lead to liver cancerBoth types of chronic viral hepatitis can cause liver cancer and have contributed to the increases in rates of liver cancer in recent decades. At least half of new cases of liver cancer are from chronic Hepatitis C.Some population groups are disproportionately affected by viral hepatitis-related liver cancer. The number of new cases of liver cancer is highest in Asian and the Pacific Islanders and is increasing among African Americans, persons 46-64 years of age, and men.With early detection, many people can get lifesaving care and treatment that can limit disease progression, prevent cancer deaths and help break the cycle of unknowingly transmitting the virus to others. If you are concerned about viral hepatitis, talk to your health care professional. More Information