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300 Million People Around The World Don't Know They're Living With Viral Hepatitis

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Viral hepatitis causes more than a million deaths every year and this number's on the rise, but still nine of 10 people who are infected don't even know it.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. The main strains A, B, C, D and E have varying symptoms, are contracted differently and affect the liver in different ways. How are the viruses transmitted and how can more cases be prevented?Hepatitis A usually results in a short-term infection and there is a vaccine, but recent outbreaks in Mississippi and Pennsylvania have caused health officials in those states to declare hep A a public health crisis. More than 20,000 cases have been confirmed nationwide.

For some people, hep B is a short-term infection but in others it becomes a chronic illness, and can cause cirrhosis or cancer of the liver. The risk for chronic infection is related to the individual's age when it was contracted.In 70-85% of cases, the hep C virus becomes a long-term infection. The disease can cause death, but most people don't realize they have it and don't seem ill. An estimated 2.4 million Americans are living with a hep C viral infection.

There is a vaccine for hep B, but not for hep C.Fewer than 100,000 cases of hepatitis D have been reported in the U.S. There isn't a cure, but it's a manageable condition. An individual has to already have hep B to contract hep D, and a vaccination against the former prevents the latter.

Hep E is mostly caught by eating undercooked pork or from contact with contaminated water. This strain isn't generally fatal, but can be deadly for pregnant women.What are some of the symptoms of viral hepatitis? Who is most at risk for infection?

Which strain has the most potential to affect people in Texas and in San Antonio?

What does the latest research tell us about the future of treating or possibly curing all strains of viral hepatitis?  In the meantime, what can be done to prevent its spread?Guests:

  • Dr. Hope Hubbard, M.D., associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio and hepatology director of the Robert B. Green clinic; board-certified in gastroenterology
  • Dr. Naim Alkhouri, director of the metabolic center at the Texas Liver Instituteand adjunct associate professor of medicine at UT Health San Antonio
  • Lauren Canary, epidemiologist and director of the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet at @TPRSource.  

*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, August 7 .

 

Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.