World Hepatitis Day during a Global Pandemic
By: Rachel Gur-Arie, MS
World Hepatitis Day is an important opportunity to acknowledge Hepatitis’ global impact. The virus, which has five main strains (A, B, C, D, and E), causes liver inflammation among other health issues, including liver cancer. According to the World Health Organization, Hepatitis B and C leads to 1.4 million annual deaths.
This year we commemorate World Hepatitis Day under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the greater medical and public health community has rightfully shifted to focus on combatting COVID-19, we should not forget that both chronic and acute diseases such as Hepatitis have not disappeared. They continue to require investment in prevention, treatment and management. We, in the public health sector, encourage you to continue your routine checkups and treatments in a safe manner, in light of the pandemic.
Various populations are at higher risk for contracting Hepatitis. This year’s World Hepatitis Day focuses on preventing Hepatitis B among mothers and newborns. Healthcare workers also experience an increased risk of contracting Hepatitis B occupationally. The Hepatitis B vaccine is very safe and effective, even for those pregnant and breastfeeding. Mothers, newborns, healthcare workers and the public can benefit from vaccinating against Hepatitis B. While the world is racing towards developing a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, everyone can do their part in following up on already-existent, effective vaccination schedules, including the Hepatitis B vaccine series.
Rachel Gur-Arie, MS, is a PhD Candidate in Health Systems Management at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer Sheva, Israel. Beginning Fall 2020, she will be a Hecht-Levi Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethics and Infectious Disease at the Berman Institute for Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with the Wellcome Center For Ethics and Humanities at the University of Oxford. She was a 2015-16 Fulbright Student Scholar in Public Health at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev from Arizona State University.