It claims close to 1.5 million lives every year, and so, hepatitis is considered to be the world’s 8th biggest killer. While hepatitis is caused by a group of A, B, C, D, E viruses, Hepatitis C is emerging to be a new health threat in India. As we observe World Hepatitis day, Dr N Suraj Kumar, Assistant Professor Gastroenteroloy, JNIMS says that with the advent of the new antiviral drugs, the infection can be cured in upto 90-95%.
Talking about hepatitis, Dr Suraj says “Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver”. There are various causes namely alcohol, viral infections, drugs etc. Those cause by viral infections are called as viral hepatitis and are an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The number of deaths due to viral hepatitis outnumbers those caused by AIDS, Tuberculosis or malaria, according to Dr Suraj.
Viral Hepatitis is of five kinds: A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A and E virus are transmitted through contaminated water and food and produce acute illness as short lasting fever, fatigue, of appetite, pain abdomen, nausea and jaundice. Hepatitis B and C are communicated through blood and body secretions and leads to chronic hepatitis which remains silent for a long time and eventually liver cirrhosis and liver cancer if not treated in time. Therefore, as doctors, we encourage more people to get tested, so those who are infected can seek treatment as earlier as possible,” adds Dr Suraj.
Prevalence of Hepatitis B is 3-5% while Hepatitis C is 1-2% in India. It is important to stress that hepatitis infections can be prevented, says Dr Suraj.
Prevention of Hepatitis B & C involves practices to prevent contact with infected blood. Using condoms, strictly avoiding sharing of needles or razors, and making sure tattooing or body piercing is done using clean tools are all important measures. Also Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable.
For Hepatitis A and E, drinking boiled water is more than enough or one can get vaccination for hepatitis A.
Regarding treatment Hepatitis A and E usually recovers on their own or may require short hospitalization for control of their symptoms. In rare cases the liver may fail completely requiring liver transplantation, says Dr Suraj.
For Hepatitis B, there are very good drugs to control the disease but cure is still not possible. For Hepatitis C new drugs have come out in the market and already in use in Manipur and have many advantages over previous available treatment, says Dr Suraj.
Some of the advantages of the new drugs are 1) Much cheaper treatment, with Rs 20,000-30,000/course one can get complete treatment. 2) Cure rate of upto 95%. 3) Shortened treatment duration, mostly 3 months and sometimes 6 months. 4) No or minimal side effects and lastly 5) Minimal monitoring required, he added.
Source: The Sangai Express