Happy Hep Day

Today is the first ever WHO-sponsored World Hepatitis Day:

These successes and challenges are amplified because viral hepatitis is not a single disease. Hepatitis is caused by at least five viruses—including two spread by water or food contaminated with feces(hepatitis A and E) and three transmitted by blood and body fluids (hepatitis B, D, and C) during childbirth (from infected mother to child); through injecting drug use, needle sticks, or transfusions; or through sexual contact. Hepatitis B and C infections can cause cirrhosis of the liver and lead to liver cancer.

Today, more than 500 million persons worldwide are living with viral hepatitis and do not have adequate access to care—increasing their risk for premature death from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Each year, more than 1 million people die from viral hepatitis and millions of new infections add to this global burden of disease and death.

It is not, however, the first ever World Hepatitis Day – it’s just the first one recognized by WHO. Many of these international attention-raising events grow out of smaller things which pick up steam and eventually get official recognition from international organizations. It turns out that World Hepatitis Day has been going on for several years.

On a related note, did you know that Hep B is a cause of discrimination in China, and that there is a burgeoning carriers’ rights movement? I didn’t either until I started browsing the impressively worked out Wikipedia Hepatitis B page (some epidemiologist had a field day) and found that there’s an entire page for Hep B in China. An excerpt:

Discrimination

Hepatitis B sufferers in China frequently face discrimination in all aspects of life and work. For example, many Chinese employers and universities refuse to accept anyone who tests positive. Some kindergartens refuse admission to children who are carriers of the virus. The hepatitis problem is a reflection of the vast developmental gap between China’s rural and urban areas. The largest problem facing Chinese people infected with HBV is that illegal blood testing is required by most employers in China.[17] Following an incident involving a Hepatitis B carrier’s killing of an employer and other calls against discriminatory employment practices, China’s ministries of health and personnel announced that Hepatitis B carriers must not be discriminated against when seeking employment and education.[18] While the laws exist to protect the privacy of employees and job seekers, many believe that they are not enforced.

“In the Hepatitis B Camp”

“In the Hepatitis B Camp” is a popular website for hepatitis B carriers’ human rights in China. Its online forum is the world’s biggest such forum with over 300,000 members. The website was first shut down by the Chinese government in November 2007. Lu Jun, the head of the rights group, managed to reopen the website by moving it to an overseas server, but the authorities in May 2008 began blocking access to the website within China, only 10 days after government officials participated in an event for World Hepatitis Day at the Great Wall of China. An official had told the head of the rights group, Lu Jun, at the time that the closure was due to the Beijing Olympic Games.[19]

(h/t to Tom)

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07 2011

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