Hepatitis can be termed as a silent epidemic as most of the people who have it are unaware of it, leading to serious consequences in later life.

Hepatitis is a silent killer and causes higher morbidity and mortality rates. A person dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis related illness. So, even in the current COVID-19 crisis, we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis, the World Health Organisation (WHO), said as it explains the theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day, which is “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”. Today, 28th of July is observed as World Hepatitis Day every year to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes severe liver disease and hepatocellular cancer.

On this occasion, doctors at Apollo Diagnostics Pune Hepatitis have also highlighted the importance of early diagnosis of hepatitis, which can lead to appropriate evaluation and treatment. Further they recommend that Hepatitis patients should go for regular screening tests once every six months to keep life-threatening liver conditions such as cirrhosis, cancer, or liver failure.

Types of hepatitis and symptoms

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus A, B, C, D and E. Among these, hepatitis B and C are the most common ones and together they result in 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections per year, according to the WHO.

  • Hepatitis A is primarily spread when a person consumes contaminated food or drinks water infected with the faeces of a person with hepatitis A.
  • Hepatitis B is transmitted via semen, vaginal fluids, and blood and can be passed from a mother to a newborn during delivery. Sharing needles and having unprotected sex can invite Hepatitis B.
  • Usually, Hepatitis C spreads when someone comes into contact with blood from an infected person, for example sharing drug-injection equipment.
  • Hepatitis D spreads when infectious body fluids like blood, saliva, semen, and vaginal fluid come into contact with body tissues beneath the skin through needle puncture or mucous membranes.
  • Hepatitis E is transmitted from the poop or if you drink or eat something that has been in contact with the stool of someone who suffers from it.

Tiredness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, poor appetite, dark urine, joint pain, yellow skin, and joint pain are notable symptoms of hepatitis.

A silent epidemic

Most of the people who have hepatitis are unaware of it and may face serious consequences in later life.

“It can be termed as a silent epidemic as ones with hepatitis B and C will not showcase any symptoms and unknowingly spread the virus to others. Screening leads to a thorough evaluation and treatment of individuals infected with hepatitis and prevents the progression of liver disease to cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and the associated morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Keerthi Prakash Kotla, Consultant Pathologist, Apollo Diagnostics Pune.

According to Dr. Kotla, India has ‘intermediate to high endemicity’ for Hepatitis B surface antigen and an estimated 40 million chronic HBV infected people, constituting approximately 11% of the estimated global burden.

The population prevalence of chronic HBV infection in India is around 3-4 %. As per WHO, in India, about 4 crore people are chronically infected with hepatitis B, and 60 lakhs to 1.2 crore people are chronically infected with hepatitis C. According to the Indian Journal of Medical Research, in India about 2,50,000 people die of viral hepatitis or its sequelae every year.

Screening for hepatitis

Dr. Kotla explained – Screening for hepatitis involves a blood test that detects antibodies produced by a person’s immune system to fight the virus. A positive test result means the person is currently infected, had been infected, or has been vaccinated against infection and is immune to infection. If the results of a blood test indicate the presence of hepatitis antibodies in the bloodstream, the same blood sample is tested to evaluate with PCR test whether the virus is still present and if so, how much is present in the bloodstream.

Dr. Mukesh Budhawani, General Physician Apollo Clinic, Pune added that hepatitis C can be worrisome amongst all. “Once it’s in your blood, it travels to your liver, where it may settle in for a long period of time. Hepatitis C is one of the top reasons for liver transplants as well,” he said.

“Every year many patients come for treatment for hepatitis. But some ignore it. Ignoring this disease can make the disease worse. Getting tested and treated early can stop the hepatitis virus from triggering cirrhosis or cancer,” he added.

So, get tested regularly as early diagnosis and early initiation of treatment can stop the hepatitis virus from triggering cirrhosis or liver failure.

This post first appeared on The Health Site

Last Updated on July 29, 2021 by shalw

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