Hepatitis leads to cirrhosis of liver, say experts

The health department is gearing up to observe the 6th World Hepatitis Day in association with World Health Organisation (WHO) on July 28 with an objective to raise awareness about hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

About 500 millions people worldwide are living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C. If left untreated, hepatitis B or C can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer or liver failure.

Joint director (medical & health) BP Singh said that around 1.5 million people worldwide die from hepatitis B or C as per WHO report.

July 28 was chosen to mark the birthday of Baruch Blumberg, awarded the Nobel prize for his work in discovering the hepatitis B virus. World Hepatitis Day prompts people to think about the large-scale viral hepatitis infections globally, need to get tested and how to avoid getting infected.

On World Hepatitis Day, two themes have been selected for 2013. The first theme is: ‘This is hepatitis. Know it. Confront it’. The second is: ‘See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.’

Singh added that ‘see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil’ is widely recognized and refers to those who deal with problems by refusing to acknowledge them.

The idea for this year is that three wise monkeys travel the world for hepatitis awareness. Soft toy monkeys will be travelling the world this year to promote awareness about hepatitis B and C. The long-term objective of the campaign is to prevent infection and to deliver real improvement in health for people living with hepatitis B and C.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted between people through contact with the blood or other body fluids (ie saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. It is very unlikely that it can be contracted through kissing or sharing cutlery.

The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is spread through direct contact with infected blood. Very rarely it may be passed on through other body fluids although this is currently unclear.

Singh pointed out that most common routes of transmission for hepatitis B and C virus are blood transfusion and blood products, using un-screened blood, medical and dental interventions without adequate sterilisation of equipments, mother to infant during child birth, sharing equipment for injecting drugs, sharing straws, notes etc for snorting cocaine, sharing razors, tooth brushes, tongue cleaner etc.

Tattooing and body piercing through unsterilised equipment can also lead to hepatitis. In case of hepatitis B, infection can also occur through unprotected sex with an infected person.

“We have been making efforts to spread awareness regarding factors responsible for spreading the deadly disease” deputy chief medical officer Anil Kumar said. Hepatitis B antigen usually appears in blood six to 12 weeks after infection and tests positive, he added. Hepatitis C antibodies usually take seven to nine weeks to appear in the blood after infection and test positive.Immunization is the best way to prevent hepatitis B. Experts claimed that hepatitis B vaccine is effective in approximately 95% of cases. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C, prevention is the only cure.

The article appeared in The Times of India on July 27th, 2013.

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