World Hepatitis Day is a public health holiday held each year to promote awareness about hepatitis, a group of infectious diseases that attack the liver and affect people all over the globe. It also aims to promote testing and prevention for all five types of the disease: A, B, C, D, and E. The World Hepatitis Alliance established this day in 2008, but did you know it was originally held on May 19? It was only after the adoption of a resolution by the World Health Assembly in 2010 that it was decided that the holiday should be moved to July 28th. Why? The date commemorates the birthday of Baruch Sammuel Blumberg, an American physician who discovered hepatitis B in the 1960s and later won a Nobel Prize for his work on the virus and its vaccine.
Why World Hepatitis Day is Important
A. It’s a global epidemic
Hepatitis is not one of those diseases that only affects certain demographics or specific regions in the world; you can get hepatitis anywhere. It’s estimated that about 400 million people are infected by hepatitis worldwide. You can contract hepatitis through blood contact or sexual intercourse, or it can be passed from mother to child. That’s why it’s especially a problem in places where people aren’t properly educated about safe sex or drug use. Left untreated, hepatitis can lead to dangerous and sometimes fatal liver diseases.
B. We’ve made huge strides
Here’s the good news: there’s been a ton of progress in the past century when it comes to preventing and treating hepatitis. There are now vaccines for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and many people in developed countries automatically get these vaccines from their doctor at a young age. Hepatitis C is easily treated. And hepatitis D and E are very rare.
C. But we have much further to go
The biggest problem we have in facing the hepatitis epidemic is that somewhere around 90% of the people who have contracted hepatitis don’t know they’re infected. The World Hepatitis Alliance has set a challenging goal to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030—it’s achievable, but they’re going to need a lot of help.
How to Observe World Hepatitis Day
1. Get tested
The simplest way to honor World Hepatitis Day is by getting yourself tested for the virus since, as we said, most people don’t even know they have it. It’s a simple blood test that you can take at your doctor’s office, or anywhere else that administers blood tests. Once you’ve gotten tested, encourage your friends and family to do the same.
2. Join an event
Tons of health organizations and affiliates will throw events on July 28th to commemorate World Hepatitis Day and raise awareness about the virus. These include concerts, rallies, pop-up testings, and more. Get on the World Hepatitis Day website to find an event near you.
3. Or host your own
If you can’t find an event near you, it’s no problem! Why not take the initiative to host your own? You could throw an informational event, or make it more fun and informal by hosting a fundraising run/walk, happy hour, or a meal. The World Hepatitis Day site has a bunch of advice, campaign materials, toolkits, and other resources to help you get started.