NEW DELHI: Viral hepatitis has been recognized as a serious public health problem in India by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with over 52 million people infected with chronic hepatitis in the country. This is placing a huge disease, social and economic burden on the affected families as well as the health system, the UN agency said.
Latest assessment by WHO shows that in India, 40 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis B and 6 to 12 million people are chronically infected with Hepatitis C. Besides, Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is the most important cause of epidemic Hepatitis, whereas Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is more common among children. Most acute liver failures diagnosed are attributable to HEV.
Inflammation of liver is usually referred as hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is a widespread infectious disease normally caused by the hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.
“There is need for immediate and urgent action to arrest the spread of hepatitis. In the South-East Asia Region, viral hepatitis is driving rates of liver cancer and cirrhosis, and is causing premature death and disease with over 100 million people chronically infected with Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C,” WHO’s Regional Director for South East Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh said. She said these deaths are unacceptable as there is an effective vaccine and treatment for Hepatitis B and over 90% of people with Hepatitis C can be cured with treatment.
A bigger concern is that most people infected with the virus are unaware. A staggering 95% of people infected with chronic hepatitis do not know they are infected and therefore, succumb to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. According to WHO, one reason for this is because people can live without symptoms for many years and when they find out they have hepatitis, it is often too late for treatment to be fully effective. As a result, liver damage leads to cirrhosis or liver cancer.
This has prompted the UN agency to come up with its first ever hepatitis testing guidelines,. It has also asked its member-countries, including India, to scale up efforts to arrest the spread of the infection. Globally, around 400 million people are infected with Hepatitis B and C.
Courtesy: The Times of India