World Hepatitis Day 2021: How to defeat Hepatitis? An expert opines

Updated on Jul 29, 2021 09:47 AM IST  |  91.5K
World Hepatitis Day 2021: How to defeat Hepatitis? An expert opines

Viral Hepatitis is one such infection that is continuing to affect lives even during the pandemic, but not much focus has been given to it. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), 11 lac-deaths per year worldwide are caused by Hepatitis B & C infections. Around 94lac people are receiving treatment for Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection, and just 10% of people who have chronic infection with Hepatitis B virus are diagnosed, of which 22% receive treatment. Just 42% of children, globally, have access to the birth dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine.

World Hepatitis Day is observed every year on the 28th of  July to raise awareness of Viral Hepatitis with this year’s theme being “Hepatitis Can't Wait”. With one person dying every 30 seconds from a Hepatitis-related illness, we can’t wait to act on Viral Hepatitis conveying the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate Hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 and make ‘Hepatitis Free Future’ a reality.

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. Together, Hepatitis B and C are the most common which result in 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections per year.

What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the Liver resulting in temporary (Acute Hepatitis) or permanent Liver damage (Cirrhosis or irreversible scarring)

Types of Hepatitis:
Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E  
Causes mild to severe illness and is transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water (Feco-oral route). The risk of Hepatitis A and E infection is associated with a lack of safe water, poor sanitation and hygiene (such as contaminated and dirty hands).
Almost everyone recovers fully from Hepatitis A and E with lifelong immunity. However, a very small proportion of people infected with Hepatitis A could die from Fulminant Hepatitis (< 0.3 % in Hepatitis A infection and 3.3 % in Hepatitis E Infection)
A safe and effective vaccine is available to prevent Hepatitis A
A vaccine to prevent Hepatitis E virus infection has been developed and is licensed in China, but is not yet available elsewhere

Hepatitis B virus
Infection of the Liver can cause both acute and chronic disease resulting in Cirrhosis of the Liver, Liver Failure and Hepatocellular Carcinoma. The most common mode is mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) during pregnancy and delivery. Hepatitis B is also spread by needlestick injury, tattooing, piercing and exposure to infected blood and body fluids, such as saliva and menstrual, vaginal and seminal fluids. Transmission of the virus may also occur through the reuse of contaminated needles and syringes or sharp objects either in healthcare settings, in the community or among persons who inject drugs. Sexual transmission is more prevalent in unvaccinated persons with multiple sexual partners.

WHO estimated that in the year 2019,  296 million people were living with chronic Hepatitis B infection, with 1.5 million new infections each year and Hepatitis B-related deaths in 820 000 people, mostly from cirrhosis and Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, easily available and highly effective.

Hepatitis C
Virus infection of the Liver causes both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness to a serious, lifelong illness including Liver Cirrhosis and Cancer. Hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and most infections occur through exposure to blood from unsafe injection practices, unsafe healthcare, unscreened blood transfusions, injection drug use, and sexual practices that lead to exposure to blood.
Globally, an estimated 58 million people have chronic Hepatitis C virus infection, with about 1.5 million new infections occurring per year. WHO estimated that in 2019, approximately 290 000 people died from Hepatitis C. Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with Hepatitis C infection, but currently, no effective vaccine is available against Hepatitis C.  

Hepatitis D
This is also known as ‘Delta Hepatitis’. This virus can only grow in a body if the person is already affected by Hepatitis B. Hence, protection against Hepatitis B with the vaccine also prevents Hepatitis D.

A few tips to prevent it:
Don’t have contaminated food and water
Avoid unsafe sex practices
Get screened for Hepatitis B & C
Get vaccinated for Hepatitis B
Know your vaccination status
Ask your doctor about screening, vaccination and treatment available for Hepatitis

About the author: Authored by Dr Sonali Gautam, Consultant-Gastroenterology, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital

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