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May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. Here’s what you need to know about it.

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month. That means it’s a great time to learn about this liver-damaging disease and how to protect yourself and those you love.

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. 

When inflammation lasts a long time, it makes it hard for the liver to do its job. And it’s hard for you to stay healthy when your liver can’t process nutrients, filter blood or fight infections. 

The 3 most common types of hepatitis are hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. If left untreated, hepatitis can cause severe liver damage. In fact, hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of liver cancer in the United States.

All three kinds of hepatitis are caused by viruses. 

You can prevent hepatitis A with a vaccine.  

The virus that causes hepatitis A is found in poop and blood. It spreads easily when people share food or drinks or have close contact with a person who has it. Often, people spread the virus before they know they have it. Many who get hepatitis A feel sick for a few weeks but recover without long-term liver damage.

You are most at risk for hepatitis A if you:

  • Use drugs, including non-injected drugs. 
  • Experience homelessness. 
  • Are a man who has sex with men. 
  • Travel to a country where hepatitis A is common. 

A safe, effective vaccine prevents hepatitis A. After Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the vaccine in 1996, hepatitis A rates decreased more than 95% by 2011. Recently, however, reported cases have jumped. 

If you are at risk for hepatitis A, contact a pharmacy or healthcare provider to get vaccinated.

You can also prevent hepatitis B with a vaccine.

The virus that causes hepatitis B spreads when an infected person’s blood, semen or other body fluid enters another person’s body. More than 60% of people who have hepatitis B don’t know they have it. Hepatitis B commonly spreads through: 

  •  Sharing needles or syringes. 
  •  Sexual contact. 
  •  Mother–to–child during birth. 

Hepatitis B is common around the world, especially in Asia, the Pacific Islands and Africa. People born in those areas should be tested. 

Since the 1990s, children have been routinely vaccinated for hepatitis B at birth. If you are age 19-59 years and are not vaccinated, you should get the vaccine. 

Hepatitis C is curable.

The virus that causes hepatitis C most often spreads when people share needles or other drug equipment. Prior to 1990, many people got hepatitis C from blood transfusions and procedures. Often, people who get hepatitis C have no symptoms and don’t feel sick. However, left untreated, hepatitis C can become a chronic disease that causes severe liver damage.

Many people who have hepatitis C don’t know they have it. Everyone who is 18 years or older or pregnant should get tested for hepatitis C. Contact your healthcare provider to get tested. New treatments can cure hepatitis C.

Protect yourself and the people you love! 

Learn more about hepatitis testing, vaccination and treatment. Contact a pharmacy or healthcare provider or visit our page

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