· Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. It is commonly caused by a viral infection. The hepatitis viruses range from an unapparent infection to an insidious persistent infection, to end-stage cirrhosis and sometimes acute liver failure.
· Viral hepatitis infection affects nearly 400 million people worldwide. Globally, about 1.4 million people die each year from hepatitis. It is estimated that only 5% of people with chronic hepatitis know of their infection, and less than 1% have access to treatment.
· Understanding the dire impact of the disease, 194 governments adopted WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which includes a goal of eliminating Hepatitis B and C in the next 13 years.
· In India a significant section of the population remains exposed to hepatitis viruses. Mostly spread through contaminated waters, vast populations remain at risk of Hepatitis A, E.
· Viral infections of the liver that are classified as Hepatitis include Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. A different virus is responsible for each type of virally-transmitted hepatitis. Hepatitis usually manifests itself as jaundice or yellow discoloration of eyes and urine. Some may have joint pain, fever, malaise prior to the onset of jaundice. In many patients. there may not be any obvious symptoms.
· The two main types of this disease are – the acute type which resolves by itself and the chronic one which persists for a long time, thus requiring drug therapy. Hepatitis A is always an acute, short-term disease, while Hepatitis B, C, and D are most likely to become ongoing and chronic.
· Liver transplantation is now an established treatment modality for end stage liver disease in India. Almost 2000 patients undergo liver transplant in India every year and an overwhelming majority is living donor liver transplants. In fact, India is now one of the countries with largest number of living related liver transplants being performed annually.
· Also, India ranks as the fourth among 11 countries which carry almost 50% of the global burden of chronic hepatitis. Looking at the statistics till 2015, 1.34 million people died of viral hepatitis in 2015, as common as TB deaths. Only 9% of HBV-infected people and 20% of HCV-infected people had been tested and diagnosed during the year. Of those diagnosed with HBV infection, 8% were on treatment, while 7% of those diagnosed with HCV infection had started treatment in 2015. Hepatitis B infection in children reduced to 1.3% in 2015 after introduction of Hepatitis B vaccine, (it was 4.7% before introduction of the vaccine). Infections with HCV in adults in 2015 continue to occur, mostly due to injecting drug use and unsafe injections in healthcare settings in certain countries.
· Even though the facts and figures are worrisome, people should be made aware that most types of hepatitis are preventable. There have been several advancements with respect to Hepatitis. For instance, Liver transplantation is an effective treatment for chronic liver disease. Also, drug therapy for Hepatitis C is useful.
· To avoid Hepatitis A and E, you must maintain complete hygiene and should not drink local unfiltered water. To prevent Hepatitis B, C, and D, avoid unprotected sex, don’t share the drug needles, do not touch any spilled blood, don’t share razors and never use someone else’s toothbrush. Basic prevention can go a long way in tackling the spread of this disease.