Today (28 July 2023) marks World Hepatitis Day, a global campaign designed to raise awareness of hepatitis, including prevention, testing and treatment.
According to figures published by the World Hepatitis Alliance, over 350 million people worldwide are living with hepatitis B and hepatitis C, with one person dying from a viral hepatitis-related illness every 30 seconds.
This means that hepatitis represents a real global health challenge. But how much do you know about hepatitis and how it is spread?
This World Hepatitis Day, we’re taking a closer look at hepatitis, what it is, and how you can reduce your risk of infection.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a term used to describe the inflammation of the liver, usually as the result of a viral infection or liver damage caused by excessive amounts of alcohol.
Viral hepatitis refers to a group of infectious diseases: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. At AlphaBiolabs, we offer STI testing for hepatitis B and hepatitis C via our Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C & HIV Test.
Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be spread via the blood of an infected person, through unprotected sex, and by people who inject drugs.
In the UK, those most at risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B or hepatitis C include men who have sex with men, children born to mothers with hepatitis B or C, healthcare workers, and people travelling to parts of the world where the infection is more common (e.g. southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa).
Although short-term (acute) hepatitis does not always have any noticeable symptoms, people who do develop symptoms may experience fever, muscle and joint pain, nausea, itchy skin, yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice), tiredness, stomach pains, and a loss of appetite.
How can I protect myself from hepatitis?
There are several ways that you can protect yourself and reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis, including:
Practice safe sex
It is extremely important to practice safe sex if you want to reduce your risk of contracting hepatitis, as certain strains of the infection (hepatitis B and C) can be spread via sexual contact with an infected person.
One of the best ways to protect yourself against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to use a condom – a barrier method of contraception – every time you have sex.
This can significantly reduce the risk of getting an infection or passing an infection on to others, as it helps to reduce the risk of infection via bodily fluids or skin-to-skin contact.
Condoms should ideally be used during all types of sexual activity including penetrative sex (vaginal and anal sex), oral sex, and when using sex toys.
Get tested regularly
If you are in a high-risk group for hepatitis, have unprotected sex, or use drugs recreationally, routine testing for hepatitis is one of the most reliable ways to make sure you are staying safe, and to reduce the risk of passing hepatitis on to others.
An AlphaBiolabs Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C & HIV test is ideal for this purpose.
With only a blood sample required, you can take the test whether or not you have symptoms of an infection.
The test looks for the presence of antibodies and antigens in your blood sample that are specific to each infection. Antibodies are made by the body’s immune system to help us fight off infections, while antigens trigger an immune response.
There are lots of instances when you should consider taking a test for hepatitis, including:
- You engage in unprotected sex (or have engaged in unprotected sex in the past)
- You and/or your partner(s) have multiple sexual partners
- You and/or your partner(s) engage in drug use before/during sex
- You’ve met someone new and want to be sure you’re both healthy before beginning a physical relationship
The World Health Organisation offers helpful guidance on treatment for hepatitis, including vaccination.
Vaccines are available to prevent hepatitis A and B, with the hepatitis B vaccine being recommended for people in high-risk groups. It is also part of the routine immunisation programme for children in the UK.
Additionally, this vaccine can help protect you from hepatitis D, which can only develop where a person has an existing hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis D is usually spread through sexual contact or via the blood of an infected person and is uncommon in the UK, being more widespread in other parts of Europe, Africa, South America, and the Middle East.
There is no vaccine for hepatitis C – one of the strains we test for at AlphaBiolabs – but antiviral medications have been shown to cure more than 95% of people with the infection.
Early diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis C has been known to reduce the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis.
How can I get tested for hepatitis?
It’s easy to order your Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C & HIV test online now for just £72.50, with only a finger prick blood sample required.
Simply order your test and we will ship your kit out to you immediately in discreet, plain packaging. The kit will contain everything you need to collect your samples and return them to our UK laboratory.
Your confidential results will be emailed to you in 4 working days.
If you receive an Initial Reactive result for any of the pathogens included in the test, you must contact your GP or local sexual health clinic for confirmatory testing, further guidance and treatment options as soon as possible.
You should also abstain from sexual contact to avoid passing the infection(s) on to other people and contact any sexual partners to inform them of the result.
For confidential advice on whether this test is right for you, contact our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note you must be at least 16 years of age to purchase a home STI test kit from AlphaBiolabs.
If you are experiencing symptoms that are causing you severe pain or discomfort, or that require a face-to-face examination, we advise you to contact your GP or local sexual health clinic as soon as possible.
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