WHO report: In India, 40 million people are infected with hepatitis B

As per World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, India is amongst the top 11 countries which carry the global burden of chronic hepatitis. Doctors warn to seek immediate medical help if the symptoms are left untreated

WHO report: In India 40 million people are infected with hepatitis B

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in India, 40 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and around 6 to 12 million people are chronically infected  with hepatitis C. It is estimated that only 5 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis know of their infection, and less that 1 per cent have access to treatment.

Hepatitis is not only a growing menace in India, but it’s a worldwide phenomenon informed doctors. “The five main types of hepatitis virus include A, B, C, D and E. Infection by any of these viruses can lead to inflammation of the liver and some infections can lead to liver cirrhosis or cancer, informed Dr Govind Nandakumar, Chief of Gastrointestinal Surgery and GI Oncosurgery, Columbia Asia Hospitals, Bengaluru.

According to WHO, a rise in instances of primary liver cancer have been noticed wherein cancer starts in the liver rather than spreading to the liver from other parts of the body. This is linked to the spread of hepatitis C infection; this virus inflames the liver. Since the hepatitis C virus progresses very slowly, those having cancer now were exposed to the hepatitis virus probably 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Dr Pradeep Gadge, Diabetologist, Gadge Diabetes Centre, Mumbai, explained that, “Obesity and diabetes often leads to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease also known as Non-alcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH); this often progresses to scarring, cirrhosis, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver failure and also liver cancer.

In the last decade a five-fold increase of instances of NASH cirrhosis have been noticed. Although in most developed countries, hepatitis has moved to the second position, other countries still have most number of hepatitis cases.

 10-15 per cent of people suffer from viral hepatitis and other liver diseases, informed doctors.  “Liver diseases are not only common among high alcohol consumers but many non-alcohol consumers also suffer from liver complications due to high Body Mass Index (BMI),” said Dr Umesh Jalihal, Senior Consultant – Gastroenterology, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur

Doctors said that a person can have hepatitis B infection for many years before diagnosis. Dr Sumana Kolar Ramachandra, Chief of Liver Transplant, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Bengaluru, informed that she sees a lot of patients with liver cirrhosis and primary liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). And the most important challenges in hepatitis B and HCC are development of improved means of early detection and treatment.

Dr Roy Patankar, Gastroenterologist and Director, Zen Hospital warned that, “Usually, antiviral medications can help fight the hepatitis virus and cure hepatitis B and C. And those having hepatitis C should not consume alcohol or smoke as it can accelerate liver damage”.

Symptoms of hepatitis

Jaundice, fatigue, nausea, stomach bloating, itching, weight loss, poor appetite and dark coloured urine.

Below mentioned are some ways to prevent the infection:

Hepatitis B and C:

Do not share personal grooming instrument like razors.

Check for used needles to prevent risk of infection.

Be careful about equipment used while getting a tattoo.

Before getting piercings done, ensure the equipment is clean.

Practice safe sex.