Act Now. World Hepatitis Day 2016. which is being
celebrated on the 28 July 2016 highlights the importance of eliminating the
disease with preventive measures and thereby saving lives
‘Ninety five percent individuals with hepatitis do not know that they are infected.’
Here are some
facts about viral hepatitis:
- There are 5 types of viral
hepatitis, hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. As obvious from the name, viral
hepatitis is a liver disease that produces symptoms like nausea, jaundice and
lethargy. While hepatitis A and E are usually associated with a self-limiting
illness, hepatitis B and C can
result in liver
cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis E can have grave consequences
in pregnant women. Hepatitis D can infect only people who already house the
hepatitis B virus (HBV).
- Hepatitis B and C are important public health concerns.
Transmission of the viruses occurs through blood and blood products,
contaminated injections or through sex. They can also pass from the mother to
her newborn baby. Effective treatment for hepatitis C is available, though
it is out of reach of most affected individuals. The cost of these medications
is declining, and hopefully more patients will be able to have access to the
- Despite the fact that adequate information is
available regarding the mode of spread of the virus and ways to prevent the
infection, the statistics are quite alarming. Around 400 million people are
infected worldwide and around 1.4 million succumb to the disease every year.
1 in 20 people with hepatitis actually know that they are suffering from the
disease. This situation is highly dangerous. The patients do not receive
treatment on time and may go on to suffer from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. An even more concerning consequence
is that these individuals will unknowingly spread the infection to others,
resulting in a silent epidemic.
- The situation in India
continues to be grim with round 290,000 cases of acute viral hepatitis were
reported in 2013. Hepatitis E appears to be the main cause of acute hepatitis
in India. Around 92% to 98% of drug users in Manipur are suffering from hepatitis C. Around 1 lakh individuals die of
hepatitis B in India every year.
Can hepatitis be
eliminated? Well, if a deadly viral infection like smallpox can be eliminated,
and another disabling viral infection - polio, on its way out, hepatitis can also be tackled. We know how the
virus behaves and how to prevent infection. However, adequate awareness among
the public and a firm determination by all governments will be needed for this
to happen. Some ways which can contribute to the elimination of the virus are:
- Awareness should be created about
hepatitis among the general public, especially about its mode of spread and
symptoms. People should be advised to eat hygienic food and drink clean and
- The medical community should be advised not
to re-use syringes and sterilize medical equipment. All donated blood should be
checked for hepatitis B and C viruses.
- Regular screening for the
virus could help in early detection. Perhaps more people will come
forward once they know that the results of the test will be kept confidential.
process should not stop at mere testing. If tested positive, the patient should
be administered treatment and should receive adequate counseling to prevent the
spread of the virus to others.
sex should be advised, with the use of barrier contraceptive whenever
possible. Drug users should be advised not to share
- The hepatitis B vaccine administered at birth
significantly reduces the number of hepatitis B cases. Till 2014, 184 countries
had introduced hepatitis B vaccination for infants. Vaccine for hepatitis A is also available, while a vaccine
for hepatitis E is available and used only in China.
Nohep a global
movement to eliminate viral hepatitis will be launched on world hepatitis day
2016. Nohep aims to provide a platform for people to speak out, be engaged and
take necessary actions to ensure viral hepatitis is eliminated by 2030.
- World Hepatitis Day — July 28th - (http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/worldhepday.htm)
- Hepatitis in India: Burden, Strategies and
Plans - (http://ncdc.gov.in/writereaddata/linkimages/NewsLtr0103_20146480274026.pdf)
- Make the
elimination of viral hepatitis our next greatest achievement -