Hepatitis: the need to eradicate the disease
240 million individuals worldwide suffer from chronic hepatitis B, while 70 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C, for a total of 1.5 million deaths a year. In Italy there are about 700,000 hepatitis sufferers, but according to estimates they could even exceed this figure: many sufferers, in fact, are unaware of being so.
The numbers, therefore, are very high: for this reason the World Health Organization has launched an international campaign to better fight this disease and eradicate it by 2030. Many countries, in any case, have already adopted a series of effective measures of containment.
We are talking, for example, of antivirals for hepatitis C and vaccines for hepatitis B, as well as effective screening programs. In Italy, in particular, the health system aims at the rapid identification of patients suffering from hepatitis in order to ensure prompt access to available antiviral treatments.
Hepatitis: a chronic inflammation
By hepatitis we mean inflammation of the liver cells that develops from an immune attack of the lymphocytes aimed at the liver. Its onset is generally acute, but it can be both symptomatic and asymptomatic, and the evolution of the disease is self-limiting or chronic. For this reason, if not adequately and promptly treated, hepatitis can accompany the patient for the entire duration of his life.
When we talk about autoimmune hepatitis, we mean a disease caused by an immune attack without obvious triggering factors. But it is not the only type of hepatitis that we know: others, in fact, can develop following prolonged exposure to toxic substances (alcohol or drugs, for example) or directly from the hepatotoxicity of tissue fats (for example in obese patients or diabetics).
The different types of hepatitisViral hepatitis are not directly hepatolesive and are classified from A to E, or with the name of the virus that triggers them (cytomegalovirus, herpes, and mononucleosis virus).
Hepatitis A and hepatitis E are contracted by the fecal-oral route, therefore by ingesting contaminated food or water, or by contact. Hepatitis A, however, can be countered by means of the vaccine, which is administered in two doses six months apart.
Hepatitis B, C and D, on the other hand, are transmitted through infected blood, through unprotected sexual intercourse, or, from infected mother to child, at the time of delivery. In our country, the hepatitis B vaccine has been mandatory since 1991, and is guaranteed free of charge by the National Health System.