Hepatitis, also known as a silent killer, is posing a severe threat to public health as Hepatitis B silently takes a toll on healthy lives. Hepatitis B virus also causes chronic infection, and people suffering from it may face death risk because of danger of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. According to a fact sheet issued by WHO, in most people, the treatment does not cure hepatitis B infection, but only suppresses the replication of the virus. Therefore, most people who start Hepatitis B treatment has to continue medication for life. That is why one should be vaccinated in order to prevent Hep B as it has proven to be an effective method to prevent the disease worldwide.
As per the estimated number is given by WHO, globally 257 million people are living with hepatitis B virus infection. It poses a grim picture in India as the study, done by Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in 2014, showed that India had over 40 million Hepatitis B infected patients. So, a lot of emphasis is given on the hepatitis B vaccination.
“Vaccine for Hepatitis B is part of the Immunization programme. It is a very good thing that government has made it compulsory to give it to the babies. It has helped a lot in the prevention of Hepatitis B. Now, adults should be aware of the threat of the disease and should vaccinate themselves as soon as possible, if not vaccinated,” said Dr Ajay Zaveri, Hepatologist in Jaslok Hospital.
According to a study conducted on the request of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and published in Indian Journal of Public health, India has intermediate to high endemicity for Hepatitis B. It also estimated that there are around 40 million chronic HBV carriers in the country. It stated that estimated one million people annually become chronic HBV carriers and amounts to approx. 100,000-200,000 premature deaths from cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma in India.
“We still get a fair amount of Hepatitis B patients though vaccine for Hep B is in the Immunisation programme. Adults who were not vaccinated fall prey to the infection. We need to make people aware of the about the importance of the vaccination. Especially those who work in healthcare sector needs to adopt preventive measures. Medical staff, paramedical staff, primary health workers etc. need to be careful while treating the patients,” said Dr Aabha Nagral, Liver Specialist Apollo and Jaslok Hospital.
Hepatitis B is also spread through exposure to infected blood and various body fluids such as saliva, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. Hepatitis can also be transmitted through sex particularly in unvaccinated men. In highly endemic areas, it is spread from mother to child at birth.
Giving an Indian context, Dr Nagral added, “When we get the medical history of patients suffering from Hep B, most of the times they don’t have any record of blood transfusion. They get infected through exposure to contaminated blood, sharing shaving blade, using same syringe etc.”