Health Kalon’s World Hepatitis Day Official Statement, 28 July 2012
Many of our brothers and sisters living inside and outside Tibet are afflicted by hepatitis B. Hepatitis has resulted in many Tibetans suffering from its physical consequences, as well as the social stigma associated with the disease. While this disease affects many Tibetans, its reach is not limited to us; about one third of the human population has been infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), one of the five types of hepatitis viruses. Due to the great burden of hepatitis on individuals, families, and whole nations, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution in 2010 recognising July 28 as World Hepatitis Day. The 28 of July was chosen as World Hepatitis Day in honor of the Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg whose birthday is on that date. Dr. Blumberg discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and invented the first hepatitis B vaccine in 1969.
Viral hepatitis can cause much harm not only to individuals, but to whole communities. Viral hepatitis can also be prevented and controlled under certain measures. In fact, the first vaccine for the hepatitis B virus was first introduced some 30 years ago. Because many people are not aware of viral hepatitis can be prevented and controlled, it remains to affect many lives. This year, on the second year that the World Health Organisation is sponsoring World Hepatitis Day, the Department of Health, CTA, join people around the globe to officially commemorate World Hepatitis Day for the first time by reinvigorating our support for both the awareness and preventive strategies that can be taken to stop viral hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, caused by 5 main viruses: Hepatitis A Virus (HAV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Hepatitis D Virus (HDV), and Hepatitis E Virus (HEV). HAV and HEV infections usually occur due to ingestion of contaminated food or water. HBV, HCV, and HDV infections are due to contact with infected bodily fluids and can cause chronic hepatitis. While hepatitis can manifest in the form of abdominal pain, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, yellowing of the skin, and more, many times it will not display any signs or symptoms. And if proper precautions are not taken, hepatitis can lead to scarring of the liver, development of liver cancer, and even death.
Because we can be infected with the viruses and still feel normal many Tibetans are unknowingly infected and transmit the virus to loved ones. Hepatitis has been prevalent in our community and still is. While it may seem like, Hepatitis cannot be stopped, it can be. We can stop hepatitis, together. HAV and HBV can be prevented by vaccination and HCV and HEV can be prevented by staying safe. We need to get tested, get vaccinated, and get involved stop hepatitis. Health care providers need to interact with and engage community members to learn about hepatitis. Together stop the spread and eradicate viral hepatitis.
Go to your local hospital and ask about how you can get tested for hepatitis. If you have not been infected, all of the hospitals and health care centers under the Department of Health offer vaccinations that can protect you from Hepatitis B virus. All infants should receive the Hepatitis B vaccine which is free up to the age of five. If you have been infected, proper diet and preventative measures can reduce the effects of hepatitis and medications can cure some people. Learn about hepatitis so that you can teach your children, your parents, your friends, and your community.
Hepatitis B has been a major health issue within our Tibetan population for far too long. We must act now to stop its spread. I urge you to go to your local health care center to get tested, get vaccinated, and learn how you can get involved.
Dr. Tsering Wangchuk
Department of Health, CTA