Doctors and patients say Viral Hepatitis B, C could be an epidemic larger in scale than HIV; calls for comprehensive approach to prevent and treat the diseases
Leading hepatologists and patients in Gujarat and other parts of India today joined hands as a first step towards building a national awareness programme to sensitise stakeholders, including patients and policy makers to combat the threat of Hepatitis in the country.
Launching the Gujarat Chapter of National Liver Foundation (NLF), Dr Sudhanshu Patwari, a leading gastroenterologist and the state convener of this initiative said, “Hepatitis is a „silent killer‟ and is far more easily transmitted than HIV.”
“It is estimated that there are between 25 to 40 million people living with Hepatitis B or C. While this is far higher than the prevalence of HIV or any cancer, awareness is inexplicably low and the majority of those infected are still unaware. Inadequate education and awareness about the disease conditions often results into millions of hepatitis diseases cases going either unreported or reported at an advanced stage,” Patwari said.
According to Dr Samir R Shah, the Founder Trustee of National Liver Foundation (NLF) and Head of the Department of Hepatology, Global Hospitals, Mumbai: “There is an urgent need to formulate effective screening, prevention and control strategies. The setting up of the first such state chapter is a step towards that direction.”
Dr Shah said similar chapters will be set up across other key states of the country. “Unlike Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and C remain silent and keep affecting the liver for a long period of time before showing any signs. During this silent phase, the person carrying the virus
It is estimated that liver diseases are among the top ten killer diseases in India, causing lakhs of deaths every year. Besides, there are those who suffer from chronic liver problems, needing recurrent hospitalization and prolonged medical attention, which leaves them and their families physically, mentally, emotionally and financially devastated.
Medical experts said that studies so far have indicated that some liver related diseases like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus could burgeon into an epidemic much larger in scale than HIV. More epidemiological studies are required to fully assess the scale and extent of the viral hepatitis epidemic in India.
“These diseases being silent killers with long gestation periods have so far not attracted the attention of the policy makers. Our attempt would be to draw the attention of policy makers and draw up a comprehensive policy towards addressing the issue,” Dr Shah said.