PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 27, 2012

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

Saturday is World Hepatitis Day

Tomorrow is World Hepatitis Day, a time to remind New Jersey residents that hepatitis viruses can cause liver cancer or cirrhosis and those who think they may be at risk should talk to their health care provider about getting tested for the disease. 

Hepatitis refers to a group of contagious liver diseases-A, B and C-each caused by a different virus. Hepatitis A typically occurs in an "acute" or time-limited form, while hepatitis B and C can develop into a life-long, chronic illness.  People with hepatitis B and C may be unaware they have the disease and can transmit it for years without knowing it. 

In New Jersey there are approximately 135,000 people infected with chronic hepatitis C and 65,000 infected with chronic hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B is transmitted through direct contact with infected blood, body fluids or through close contact with an infected person. It can also be spread from mother to baby during birth, through use of unsterile needles, body piercing, tattooing or unprotected sex. Hepatitis B is highly infectious and most people who not feel sick or have any idea they carry the virus.

"Pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis B during their first prenatal visit so that newborns can receive appropriate treatment," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "By taking proper precautions virtually every child can be protected from this vaccine-preventable disease."

The Department recently launched a public awareness campaign called "Start protecting your baby at birth with hepatitis B vaccine." The campaign is designed to encourage mothers to get their newborns vaccinated with their first hepatitis B dose in the hospital.  Infants infected with hepatitis B have a 90% chance of developing the disease.  Hepatitis B can lead to liver damage, liver cancer and even death.

A brochure about the Hepatitis B campaign is available at: https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisb/documents/protectbaby_hepb_vaccine.pdf

 Hepatitis C is spread through contact with infected blood. There is no vaccine to prevent it, but new treatments were approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidelines recommending that all U.S. baby boomers get tested for hepatitis C since available treatments can now cure up to 75% of infections.  

 Approximately 70% to 80% of people with hepatitis C do not have symptoms.  However, some people can have mild to severe symptoms including fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice skin or eyes.

 

An online assessment tool to determine your risk factors for hepatitis is available on the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/riskassessment/

 

For complete information on World Hepatitis Day, please visit the CDC at:

http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/WorldHepDay.htm

 

For complete information on hepatitis A, B and C, please visit:

https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisb_perinatal/index.shtml

https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisa/index.shtml

https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisb/index.shtml

https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisc/index.shtml

 

Last Reviewed: 8/8/2012