Deemed as one of the biggest general elections of the Indian political history, all major political parties are trying to instill hope and come up with creative manifestoes addressing the increasing inflation, law and order situation and corruption to name a few. Amid the cacophony of many a social and economic policy changes, has healthcare made the cut? Specially considering the catastrophic viral hepatitis that is silently but consistently edging towards the nation?
The global policy report on prevention and control of viral hepatitis 2013 by the WHO reflects that five million hepatitis-related deaths could occur in South East Asia alone, in the coming decade. With approximately 100 million hepatitis B and 30 million hepatitis C patients in this region about three-fourth are unaware of their hepatitis status owing to the silent nature of the disease and lack of surveillance. Greater than 50 per cent of the global burden of hepatitis E is from South East Asia alone.
The number of chronic hepatitis B carriers in India alone was estimated to be around 40 million in 2006, which increased from 36 million reported in 1996.Additionally, the WHO has noted that India neither has any national policy nor established any goal to eliminate the viral hepatitis.
On World Health Day, Dr. Samir Shah, the Founder Trustee of National Liver Foundation (NLF) and Head of the Department of Hepatology, Global Hospitals, Mumbai, said “The hepatitis virus can remain in the body for years without showing any symptoms of its presence, leading to more fatal consequences. Sadly, due to the lack of proper surveillance, the diagnosis in more than 60 percent of the patients is being done at a stage when the disease is irreversible”.
“The viruses are significantly different when it comes to epidemiology, natural history, prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The widespread lethal effect of this disease can be calculated from a fact that its prevalence is much higher than HIV or any form of cancer,” Dr. Bobby John, Executive Director of Global Health Advocates (GHA) India, said.
Criticality of government intervention to tackle viral hepatitis is evident in the recently accomplished polio eradication success story. With no polio cases registered for three consecutive years, India has been certified as WPV transmission free. Effective implementation of intensive immunization and surveillance activities against polio by the Indian government won us the battle.
Similar national policies are required to deal with viral hepatitis, rooted as one of the deadliest diseases of our times.