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FOR RELEASE: May 11 , 2006
Protect Yourself Against Hepatitis
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) hopes more Oklahomans will learn about hepatitis during Hepatitis Awareness Month activities in May. According to the OSDH, an estimated 28 new hepatitis A infections, 74 new hepatitis B infections, and five new hepatitis C infections were reported in 2003 for Oklahoma. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 7,653 new hepatitis A infections, 7,526 new hepatitis B infections, and 891 new hepatitis C infections occurred in 2003 for the United States.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. The liver is the largest gland in the body, located in the right, upper belly. The liver is a vital organ that performs many of the body’s functions that are necessary for life. Of the five known types of hepatitis virus, A, B and C are the most common in the United States.
Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C are spread through blood and other body fluids, usually through sexual contact, contaminated needles or from an infected mother to her baby at birth. Both hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause chronic infection that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are not spread by sneezing, coughing, sharing dishes, holding hands, hugging, or kissing on the lips.
Hepatitis A is spread by the fecal-oral route usually because of poor hand washing techniques, poor sanitation or by intimate contact with an infected person.
Hepatitis A and hepatitis B diseases are preventable with vaccination. No vaccine exists to prevent hepatitis C infection.
Two other less common types of hepatitis are hepatitis D, which is found in the blood. It exists only in the presence of hepatitis B, and may increase severity of disease. Hepatitis E is most often spread in developing countries through contaminated water, but usually not in the United States.
For more information regarding Hepatitis Awareness Month activities and the prevention and control of viral hepatitis, contact Debbie Purton, RN, or Jan Fox, RN, at the OSDH HIV/STD Service at 405-271-4636. Free educational materials are available at http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.
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