Killer hepatitis on the prowl, warn experts

Dr. Manisha Bangar

Doctors plan to launch a foundation to make government and community pay greater attention to the problem

With hepatitis viral infections assuming menacing proportions and leading to very high mortality, a group of concerned doctors and non-medical individuals have decided to launch Hepatitis-free India Liver Foundation to make government and community pay greater attention to the problem.

Good sanitation

“India is emerging as the global capital of Hepatitis B virus (HBV), while the problem of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is also rising. More and more people are dying because of acute hepatitis which can be prevented by good sanitation and proper water supply”, said Dr. Manisha Bangar, chief consultant Hepatologist, Mediciti Hospitals and executive council member of the Indian Association for Study of Liver Diseases (IASLD), AP chapter.

Compounded by alcohol consumption, leptospirosis and dengue, acute hepatitis was causing many deaths both in urban and rural areas in the country.

Dr. Manisha, who along with hepatologists from different cities in the country is proposing to establish the Foundation, said that lot more focus like the campaign against HIV was needed to contain hepatitis problem. HBV and HCV were tenacious and communicable from patient-to-patient.

“The Government and community have to focus on containing the problem”, she added.

She said the prevalence of HBV was 4-5 per cent in the general population, but quite high of about 10-12 per cent in North-eastern States and in Andhra Pradesh. While that of HCV was 2-3 per cent in general population and 5.2 per cent in certain parts of North India and coastal Andhra Pradesh.

Besides HCV, hepatitis A and E viruses were also causing lot of liver-related deaths, that too in the younger people, including pregnant women, Dr.Manisha said

NAFLD on the rise

She said that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) was on the upsurge due to modern lifestyle and dietary habits and increasingly linked to metabolic syndrome ( a group of health problems that increase the risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke), which was also on the rise in the affluent and middle income sections.

Dr. Manisha said NAFLD would ultimately lead to liver cirrhosis as the accumulated fat releases substances known as endokines, which cause liver injury. Liver disease related deaths were emerging as a major cause in the country and most of the deaths could be prevented. The proposed Foundation would concentrate on this aspect.

It would also advocate the need for patients with chronic liver disease to get State-sponsored treatment like for TB and HIV and to include vaccination for HBV in the universal immunisation programme.

The article appeared in The Hindu on January 2nd, 2013.


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