Around 4% of Indian population affected by Hepatitis virus

Posted by : Mr. Sreehari Nair, 08 Aug 2013 11:33 AM
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Dr. Devendra Desai, Consultant Gastroenterology talks about the less discussed virus – Hepatitis and why we need to act fast

Why is hepatitis still largely an unknown health threat around the world?

The threat of the Hepatitis virus is still very under played in many countries including India. Although there are a number of initiatives being taken to educate the masses on the deadly virus but more efforts have to be made at the grass root level as well. An estimated 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B virus and more than 360 million have chronic (long-term) liver infections. About 6,20,000 people die every year as a result of hepatitis B virus infection. A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982. Some 150 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus, and more than 3,50,000 people are estimated to die from hepatitis C-related liver diseases each year.

What could be the approx. number of people infected with hepatitis virus in India?

There are no clear data available on the number of people infected but then few research surveys says that approximately 4% of the population in India is affected by Hepatitis B virus and 0.2% is infected with Hepatitis C virus. Time has come for Hepatitis to be taken up as a global issue like Cancer and Aids. 

Out of the 5 different types of hepatitis, which are the deadly ones?

There is no one particular Hepatitis virus that is more deadly that its peers. Any of the Hepatitis viruses can be dangerous if not dealt with in the early stages. Acute severe infection can be fatal.

Can drinking alcohol lead to hepatitis?

Yes and it is called as alcoholic hepatitis (inflammation of the liver). It is different than viral hepatitis. Alcoholic hepatitis can vary from mild with only liver enzyme elevation to severe liver inflammation with development of jaundice, prolonged prothrombin time, and even liver failure. Severe cases are characterized by either obtundation (dulled consciousness) or the combination of elevated bilirubin levels and prolonged prothrombin time; the mortality rate in both severe categories is 50% within 30 days of onset.

Can hepatitis be transmitted to an unborn child?

Yes, the infection can be passed to newborn child during delivery.

What is the average lifespan of someone with Hepatitis?

It depends on the severity of the infection. The host factor is also important. It is very important that one take vaccinations and prevent those things that can bring in the virus.

Is hepatitis a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

Yes, it is one of the routes for B and C. 

What are the different tests that a person should go to diagnose hepatitis?

here is a battery of tests to diagnose infection, to know the quantity of virus, the genotype of the virus etc. Liver disease due to hepatitis can be diagnosed by a physical examination and examining the results of blood tests. There are different types of tests for examination of specific Hepatitis virus. Read this article in New York Times here on the different tests taken for Hepatitis:http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/hepatitis/diagnosis.html

What are the vaccinations available for each type of hepatitis virus?

At present vaccine is available only for Hepatitis A and B viruses.

How can hepatitis virus be prevented?

For water borne viruses i.e. A and E proper water supply and improvement in sanitation. For the viruses transmitted by parenteral routes ( B and C), , screening of blood and blood products, use of barrier contraception (mainly useful for hepatitis B)  vaccinations for hepatitis B virus

What are the possible initiatives government can do to curb the hepatitis virus? 

The government can do a lot when it comes to educating the masses on preventing hepatitis and taking vaccinations. Make vaccination of hepatitis B as a first step. Then improvement of sanitation is a major step.

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