PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
July 28, 2014

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

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

July 28th is World Hepatitis Day

In recognition of World Hepatitis Day, the New Jersey Department of Health is highlighting the health consequences of hepatitis and reminding residents to get tested. If untreated, this contagious liver infection can lead to liver damage and cancer.

Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. The most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C-three different contagious liver infections caused by unrelated viruses. Hepatitis A typically occurs in an "acute" or time-limited form, while hepatitis B and C can develop into a life-long, chronic illness.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone born from 1945-1965 get a blood test for hepatitis C. People born during these years are five times more likely to be infected and account for more than three out of every four Americans living with hepatitis C.  The CDC estimates that nationally, more than 3 million people are impacted by hepatitis C.  

"In New Jersey, more than 6,500 newly diagnosed cases of chronic hepatitis C were reported in 2013," said Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd.  "People with hepatitis C often have no symptoms and can live with the disease for decades without feeling sick while liver damage may be silently occurring.  Once people who are at risk get tested, they can take advantage of new treatments that can cure hepatitis C.''

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

Hepatitis B is a highly infectious virus that can cause acute or chronic liver disease.  The virus is spread through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. Untreated, up to 25 percent of people with hepatitis B develop serious liver problems such as cirrhosis or possibly liver cancer. Treatment can help reduce or prevent liver damage. There is a safe and effective vaccine available to help prevent hepatitis B infection.  

Hepatitis B may be passed from mother to baby during birth when the mother doesn't know she is infected.  In other cases the virus is spread to the baby during close contact with an infected family member.

"There is no reason for any child to become infected with hepatitis B," noted O'Dowd.  "Every pregnant woman should be tested for hepatitis B during the first prenatal visit, so that physicians can begin medical protocols once the baby is born. Every newborn should be vaccinated against hepatitis B before leaving the hospital."

For more information on how mothers can protect  babies from hepatitis B, please visit: https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisb/documents/protectbaby_hepb_vaccine.pdf

Hepatitis A virus can cause mild to severe illness, but it does not lead to chronic infections.  It is spread mainly though eating or drinking contaminated food and water, or through direct contact with an infectious person.  Hepatitis A can occur anywhere, but most commonly occurs in countries where there is a lack of safe water and poor sanitation.  There is a safe and effective vaccine available to help prevent hepatitis A. The vaccine is recommended for all children at age one. Adults should get vaccinated if they are at risk to becoming infected with hepatitis A.  To determine if you are at risk, please visit: https://nj.gov/health/cd/documents/faq/hepatitis_a_faq.pdf

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, including who should get tested and/or vaccinated, please visit:

Hepatitis A: https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisa/index.shtml
Hepatitis B: https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisb_perinatal/index.shtml
Hepatitis C: https://nj.gov/health/cd/hepatitisc/index.shtml

 

Last Reviewed: 7/28/2014