More people are dying in the country because of Hepatitis B and C than HIV, malaria, and dengue combined but still the awareness about the disease remains low. A doctor said, even those suffering from the illness don’t know about it until the symptoms turn serious leading to a high mortality rate.
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On the eve of World Hepatitis Day (Saturday), Union health minister Harsh Vardhan pledged to join a campaign initiated by the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) to create awareness about the disease. On Saturday, an event organized by a leading hospital in the city where Vardhan pledged, “I pledge to get my family and myself tested for Hepatitis B and C and generate a dialogue on the subject with my colleagues.” He also pledged to talk to at least 10 people about the disease to increase awareness and support those suffering from it.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this virus is commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids.
According to WHO estimated in 2015, 257 million people suffered from Hepatitis B infection (defined as Hepatitis B surface antigen-positive). Government data shows that India harbors 10-15% of the entire pool of Hepatitis B virus carriers in the world and 15-25% of these patients are likely to suffer from cirrhosis, scarring of the liver and liver cancer and likely to die prematurely.
ILBS director Dr. S K Sarin said, “A vaccine is available for the prevention of Hepatitis B. All infants should get a shot as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. It, however, can be taken at any age,” also added that there was no preventive vaccine for Hepatitis C — a major cause of liver cancer.
An expert said, “Hepatitis C spreads through unsafe injection practices, transfusion of unscreened blood and its products and sexual practices that lead to exposure of blood of an infected individual.”
The Centre had launched the national viral hepatitis control program in February, which Dr. Sarin said was a welcome move as it would bring the focus back on the disease. He said, we need more funds to make the program successful and to ensure all persons suffering from Hepatitis B and C get treatment. Also, mass campaigns are needed to create awareness about their vaccination.”
Meanwhile, WHO has also called on the countries to take advantage of recent reductions in the costs of diagnosing and treating viral hepatitis as well as scale-up investments in eliminating the disease.WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “Today 80% of people suffering from Hepatitis can’t get the services they need to test and treat the disease.”
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