1 in 12 what?, you may be asking yourself. There's something more widespread than AIDS and more prevalent than any one cancer, and yet awareness is inexplicably low and the majority of those infected are unaware.
Today, May 19, 2009 is World Hepatitis Day. This one day is dedicated to educate people about a chronic liver disease that affects 1 out of every 12 men, women, and children across the globe. One in 12 people worldwide are living with chronic Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. World Hepatitis Day is highlighting those who live with chronic Hepatitis B or C. Although different viruses, both can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Both are blood borne and commonly passed through used needles, sex, and from mother to child in the birth process. Hepatitis B and C are not sneezed or coughed onto someone. They're not passed through toilet seats or doorknobs. An infected person's blood has to get into the blood stream of another person. In the case of Hepatitis B, that other person, especially if they're under age 21, would likely be immunized.
One out of 12 is a huge number. It's a number that's often ignored because in most cases you'd never guess a person has hepatitis. If you think you've never met someone with chronic hepatitis, you're wrong. They're athletes, businessmen, mothers, fathers, children. They look fine. They often feel fine. They may live for decades completely unaware that a virus has taken up residence in their liver cells. The yellow eyes and bulging abdomen that people think of when they picture hepatitis happen only at the end. Seventy-five percent of people with Hepatitis B will thankfully never get to that point. They'll live long healthy lives and die of something completely unrelated to their hepatitis. That's wonderful news. But upwards of 25% may die of liver failure or liver cancer and that's far too many. The amount of research though is small. A drop in the bucket really. In this country, with an effective immunization readily available and required for all school-age children, Hepatitis B is considered a non-issue. Why spend money on something you can prevent from happening in the first place? A valid point. But what about those already living with it? It's near pandemic proportions in poor areas of Asia where mother to child transmissions are common. Yet those areas with the greatest need for a cure have the fewest resources to make it happen.
I just hope that this post may have raised your awareness of this disease. If you would like to know more, please go to the Hepatitis B Foundation or the World Hepatitis Alliance.