Every year, July 28 is marked as World Hepatitis Day (WHD). It is a day dedicated to increase the global awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes. The theme of this year’s WHD is “Prevent Hepatitis. Act Now”. Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a group of virus known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The liver is the largest internal organ. It is shaped like a pyramid and lies under the right ribs just beneath the right lung.

The liver is an indispensible organ. It has several important functions including: break down and storage of many of the nutrients absorbed from the intestine; production of most of the clotting factors that prevent excessive bleeding from cuts or injuries; release of bile into the intestines to help absorb nutrients (especially fats) as well as removal of harmful substances from the blood.

Annually, viral hepatitis affects 400 million people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease and killing about 1.5 million people (4,000 people daily), mostly from hepatitis B and C (HBV & HCV). Yet, it is entirely preventable.

With better awareness and application of its preventive measures, this life-threatening disease could be eliminated and 4,000 lives could be saved daily, underscoring the importance of the theme of WHD 2015.

Viral hepatitis is one of the most communicable diseases in the world. It is spread through contaminated blood, intravenous drug abuse and sexual contact with an infected person. In highly endemic areas like sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, hepatitis B is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth (perinatal transmission).

In addition, infection can occur during medical, surgical and dental procedures, tattooing, or through the use of razors and similar objects that are contaminated with infected blood. Infection with HBV or HCV is the main cause of liver cancer; viral Hepatitis causes 80% of liver cancer deaths.

This fact makes hepatitis a target disease of the Big War Against Cancer in Nigeria, the current focal cause of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP-Nigeria).

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