With all eyes on Washington as the dreaded Aug. 2 “debt ceiling deadline” rapidly approaches, bringing fears of a major potential catastrophe if the debt limit is not extended, I’m afraid that another important date could be overlooked in the noise of the current news cycle.
In many ways, July 28 is more important than the Aug. 2 financial scare. While a financial disaster is important, a liver disaster can, in many ways, be far more devastating. July 28 is a date that the entire world should pay attention to, since this day aims to break the silence about a dangerous liver health epidemic that is three times more prevalent than HIV/AIDS.
One in 12 people in the world are already infected with the hepatitis virus. That adds up to 500 million people in the world harboring this infection. While there are several types of hepatitis, the sad fact is that most of these infected people have the most deadly type which, if not treated, can lead to them needing a liver transplant, developing liver cancer, or dying from complications of liver cirrhosis. Getting the word out about these facts should earn July 28 a place in the news cycle, don’t you think?
July 28 is the day the World Health Organization has designated as the first annual World Hepatitis Day. Hepatitis has lingered in the background for too long; it needs the light to shine on it, it needs an alarm sounded. It needs the world to listen.
The goals of World Hepatitis Day, July 28, 2011, are simple but profound: get people thinking about the massive number already infected with this virus and – on a more personal level – thinking about whether they are at risk themselves, so they can either take steps to avoid infection or get tested and start treatment.
Just as our nation has heeded the call to rally against tragic epidemics of the past, we need our nation to be alerted to the prevalence, the preventions, and treatments available to stop this silent killer. Hepatitis is a preventable and treatable disease. Help me turn up the volume and break into the noisy news cycle to make people listen and learn about hepatitis on July 28, 2011.
Stephen C Vogt, PharmD
President and CEO