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Resurgence Of Hepatitis

Posted on 05.07.2019
by 
The Resurgence of Hepatitis A: Why is it happening?

Hepatitis A is a preventable illness that can be guarded against with vaccines. It is an infection affecting the liver caused by a virus that is spread through the faeces of an infected person. Symptoms can include fatigue, joint pain, high temperature, nausea as well as jaundice, itchy skin, dark urine and liver pain. So, why write about a preventable disease that is, by the 
NHS’s own admission, “uncommon in the UK”? 

 

Well, in the US, this preventable illness has increased by nearly 300% in just two years. The virus itself is highly contagious and can be transmitted through contaminated food, close or sexual contact or through drug use. Although it is curable and most people make a full recovery, rare cases can suffer from liver failure and even death. This resurgence is particularly worrying considering hepatitis A declined by 95% in the states between 1996 (when the vaccine was made available) and 2011.  

 

According to one doctor, one of the culprits is lack of vaccination. Most children are given the vaccination at age one and lasts for roughly 11 years - however, most of the outbreaks being recorded are occurring in adults. Some of these adults were not vaccinated as children or instead had the virus in their youth and as a consequence remain vulnerable to it from contaminated food or, more commonly, drug use. Increasing vaccination among groups at risk for hepatitis A infection could be what is needed to stop these outbreaks. 

 

Although hepatitis A is, as we mentioned previously, something that is far more commonly found among adults (though not exclusively), other preventable diseases that seemed to die out years ago in the developing world have started to crop up again. Measles is one of these and, according to the World Health Organisation, “reported cases rose by 300 percent in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018. This follows consecutive increases over the past two years.”  

 

Again, the US has proved to be the area where this alarming trend has taken route most aggressively. This is mostly due to the anti-vaxxer movement that has gained traction in the past few years, bolstered by false claims that vaccinating babies can cause autism - claims that have been completely debunked by scientists but nonetheless spread much like these preventable viruses through first-time parents who either believe them or hope nature will protect their children. As ever, with both hepatitis A and measles, education is key and empowering susceptible groups to take action will help everyone in the long term.   

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