July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, a sorely-needed awareness campaign for diseases that affect more than 400 million people alive today.
In the U.S., more people die from hepatitis C than they do from HIV/AIDS. And despite being preventable with vaccine, hepatitis B causes an estimated 1 million deaths every year and is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide. Despite these shocking numbers, the virus is little understood and discussed, and that’s got to change, according to Dr. H. Nina Kim, director of the Madison HIV/Hepatitis Coinfection Clinic in Washington.
“In some ways, the HIV epidemic is tied really closely with the gay movement and very vocal patient advocacy arose from this demographic,” said Kim. “A lot of my patients have a sort of shame about hepatitis C; there are a lot of similarities with both chronic viral infections, but there isn’t the same kind of patient advocacy.”
Hepatitis types A through E get their names from the devastating effect on the liver (hēpar means “liver” in Greek), but the viruses aren’t related to each other, except when B occasionally leads to D. Perhaps what’s most frightening about these diseases is that despite their serious long-term consequences, many of those infected have no idea because they may not have symptoms.
“It’s a silent condition,” said Kim. “People aren’t really showing up very sick with this and so we miss it."
To acknowledge World Hepatitis Day, here are just a few of the numbers that shed light on a group of viruses that affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Scroll to the bottom for information about the different types.
3 in 4
15 to 25 percent
Here are all the types of hepatitis
While hepatitis C is the most common type in the U.S., the numbers are very different worldwide. Hepatitis E, for instance is most common in developing countries where people have poor access to clean water and sanitation services, or places like refugee camps and areas that have been hit with natural disasters. Hepatitis B, while vaccine-preventable, is high in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia.
Learn more about the different types of hepatitis in the chart below:
Also on HuffPost: