World Hepatitis Day 2020: We need to eradicate viral hepatitis to prevent deaths caused by it. Dr. Premashish Kar is explaining how it can be done.
Viral hepatitis continues to be a major public health concern, not only in India but across the world. While half of the World’s population has been exposed to different forms of the hepatotropic virus, the spectrum of the disease still varies with respect to the etiological agents in different geographical locations across the globe. Onlymyhealth spoke to Dr. Premashish Kar, Director & Head, Department of Gastrology & Hepatology, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali, Ghaziabad to know how we can eradicate viral hepatitis. Read the article to know more details.
Is lack of awareness the reason behind viral hepatitis being widely spread?
World Health Organization(WHO) recently shared the data on hepatitis which shows that around 29 Crore people are currently having viral hepatitis. Sadly, most of them do not know about them having hepatitis. This is mainly due to lack of awareness which is why they do not assess their symptoms and fail to get diagnosed. This has caused more people to suffer from this condition and many lost their life. World Hepatitis Day is celebrated every year on 28th July to create awareness about hepatitis and help people stay healthy. The theme of hepatitis day this year is- ‘Find the missing millions’ which aims to find more people suffering from this disease and help them get proper treatment. Viral hepatitis can be eradicated by taking some small steps.
- Get vaccinated for hepatitis
- Avoid infected syringes and needles
- Use contraception
- Avoid using shared razors and blades that may have infected blood on it.
- Simple steps can bring major changes.
How can viral hepatitis be diagnosed?
Hepatitis E (HEV) is the major cause of acute sporadic and epidemic hepatitis in India. About 15-30% of the cases are acute hepatitis in India is due to HBV. HCV is an uncommon cause of acute icteric hepatitis but causes most of the post-transfusion hepatitis. A total of 315 outbreaks of viral hepatitis have been reported from 2015 to 2019 & 99 outbreaks in 2019 alone by the integrated disease surveillance program of the national center for disease control.
Viral hepatitis is characterized by the onset of fever, malaise, anorexia, nausea, vomiting followed by the appearance of jaundice. Once jaundice appears the fever disappears. Though hepatitis is a very common disease, most people confuse it with Jaundice, but both are different and people need to understand it for prevention. Jaundice on one hand is a symptom indicating an underlying disease affecting the Liver or the biliary system, whereas Hepatitis is the name of a disease, which means there is inflammation of the Liver Parenchyma due to some cause.
The confirmation of the diagnosis is through the liver function test which shows the presence of conjugated hyperbilirubinemia & 3-5 times rise in the transaminases. The majority of the patients of acute viral hepatitis recover in 4-6 weeks without any residual consequences. However, in some persons, the disease can progress to a severe form of disease which is known as Acute liver failure & carries a high mortality.
How can viral hepatitis be eradicated?
The unfinished challenging task would be to eliminate viral hepatitis from our country. There is a dire need to raise awareness among the masses on the rising issues of viral hepatitis by educating and encouraging people to come forward for the access of hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment services. This would need an integrated & holistic approach for educating public & healthcare personnel for identifying persons at risk for viral hepatitis & to ensure appropriate counseling, diagnosis medical management & treatment.
Administration of injection using sterilized needles & syringes should be ensured for Health practices. All healthcare persons across the country should be vaccinated as many of them are unsure of their vaccination status & prone to bloodborne infection. Public health measures to improve sanitation & provide safe drinking water are important for preventing HAV & HEV.
Encouraging voluntary blood donation in the blood bank would provide safe blood for donation but as a screening tool, individual donor nucleic acid testing (NAT) detects infection for HIV, HBV & HCV much earlier than serological tests. There is also a need to redefine the HAV vaccination strategies in India because of the changing epidemiology in our country. When HEV vaccination is made available in our country it would facilitate in bringing down the high mortality in pregnant mothers when they develop viral hepatitis in the second/third trimester in pregnancy. Scaling up of infant vaccination has already demonstrated & in fact on global HBV prevalence. There are many unfinished tasks left in the prevention & elimination of viral hepatitis in India & the Government of India has already set up a national health program for the eradication of viral hepatitis intending to make our country free of viral hepatitis.
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