World Hepatitis Day: Hepatitis B is the 2nd most common cause of cirrhosis in India (after Alcohol). It is the leading cause of liver cancer in India (> 40% of all Liver cancer are Hepatitis B related).
By Dr. Vibhu Vibhas Mittal
World Hepatitis Day 2020: Being the most important organ of the body, the liver is involved in a multitude of functions and any abnormality or restriction in its function can severely affect the body and can even lead to death. The inflammation in the liver due to viral infections is referred to as hepatitis attributing to multifold reasons like autoimmune hepatitis, or toxins like alcohol, drugs, medicines etc. fat deposition in liver due to obesity also causes liver damage.
Liver aids in detoxification of various metabolites, synthesizes proteins and produces biochemicals involved in digestion and growth. If hepatitis presents acutely, patients may experience fever, nausea, upper abdominal pain with jaundice. This may recover, almost completely if properly treated. With injuries over time, months to years, there may be permanent, poorly reversible damage to the liver with minimal symptoms initially. This is known as chronic hepatitis and may progress to cirrhosis (permanent, irreversible liver damage due to scarring of liver) and liver cancer.
According to the recent data provided by WHO, here is a prevalence of over 29 crore people living with viral hepatitis and are yet unaware of it. This lack of awareness leaving undiagnosed, many are still continuing to suffer and most of them lose their lives in this unknown fight.
On the occasion of World Hepatitis day 2020, which is themed to – ‘Find the missing millions’ aims to create and raise awareness among the masses. While eradication of this deadly disease is possible by following certain small precautionary measures like the use of vaccination against Hepatitis, avoid the use of infected needles/ syringes, making use of barrier contraception measures while having sex with the infected partner, and avoid blood transmission through the use of used shaving razors and blades.
Viral Hepatitis in India
Being a serial killer, it is the 2nd most common infection responsible for high mortality rate following tuberculosis. AS per the recent estimates of WHO, around 5 crore Indians suffer from Hepatitis B and around 1.2 crore have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C. While posing a major health challenge for the country, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C accounts for over 96% mortality rate due to all forms of viral hepatitis. Another interesting fact is that of the total patients suffering from this condition, around 80% are unaware of it, and hence it is termed as silent invaders in the initial stages. This unawareness further increases the chances of transmission between individuals and delay in treatment leads to poor outcomes later. Hepatitis B is the 2nd most common cause of cirrhosis in India (after Alcohol). It is the leading cause of liver cancer in India (> 40% of all Liver cancer are Hepatitis B related).
Timely diagnosis is the key
While the viral infection can affect one and all equally, those with family history of liver ailments, cirrhosis or liver cancer, individuals with high risk of sexual behavior, IV drug abuse, surgeries and blood transfusions body piercing or history of tattooing are at an increased risk of getting diagnosed with Hepatitis B or C.
Apart from them, those suffering from recurrent jaundice also need to get their liver function checked every now and then. Onset of hepatitis is also prevalent among those individuals who are starting on immune-suppressants or anti-cancer therapy are also highly vulnerable and need to get a timely diagnosis in order to recover well.
As both the conditions are treatable, doctors may prescribe oral medications without significant side effects. Hepatitis C can now be cured with these antivirals. Hepatitis B can also be managed with oral medications and prevent the occurrence of permanent liver damage, liver failure and liver cancer.
Being a part of the immunization program in India since 2011, a very effective vaccination for Hepatitis B is available as a preventive measure. It has been recommended vaccination for all the new born in their routine schedule, even adults can be given a dose.
This is a special opportunity on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day to raise awareness about the importance of knowing the condition and to spread a word about the treatment modules available to the masses.
(The author is Senior Consultant – Gastroenterology & Hepatology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Patparganj. Views expressed are personal.)