Hepatitis B and C on the rise!

The Asian Age.  | Kaniza Garari

Life, Health

It’s important to stay alert and detect these viruses as early as possible, to avoid fatalities, say experts.

Hepatitis B causes 60,000 deaths every year in India alone, according to World Health Organisation.

The increasing cases of hepatitis B and C is primarily due to blood transfusions with unscreened blood, surgical procedures that follow unsafe practices and use of unsterile needles by diabetics and intravenous drug users.

Hepatitis B causes 60,000 deaths every year in India alone, according to World Health Organisation.

The prevalence of Hepatitis C is one per cent in the general population but doctors state that due to lack of screening, the actual numbers are not known. Chronic Hepatitis C cases, which reach hospitals require aggressive treatment. If there is damage to the liver, they can be fatal as very little can be done to make it bounce back.

The increasing cases of liver diseases and liver cancers in the country are making doctors look at Hepatitis B and C closely. Hepatitis B and C is a virus that causes acute to severe infection in the liver and needs to be treated properly. 

Dr Ramanjaneyulu Erukulla, senior consultant gastroenterologist and hepatologist explains, “Those who undergo blood transfusion and surgeries must get their blood tested after a few months. Often, we find patients coming with full blown virus due to surgeries and blood transfusion.”

While blood is subjected to tests at the best of centres, there is a window period of 60 days for the virus to show in the tests. This is one of the prime reasons where secondary causes of transmission are showing up in people.

Dr Sethu Babu, senior gastroenterologist says, “Screening all those who have had a surgery  10 to 15 years back, and those who have received transfusion in the past should be made special targets. In hospitals, we are now finding these patients coming with full blown disease and serious liver complications. Some of them also have liver cancer. Anti-viral therapy is not only economical but is also highly cost effective if the disease is detected early.”

Apart from these factors there are also cases of unprotected sex, multiple utilisation of personal care items like toothbrushes and razors which have infected people with the virus.

Dr Ramanjaneyulu adds, “Awareness of the disease is very low in India. While the disease shows few symptoms in the early stages, people often ignore it and that leads to further development. 

“Pregnant women coming to the institutes are screened but those who are missed continue to carry the virus which proves fatal.”

Effective awareness is the need of the hour. Regular screening, Hepatitis B vaccination and safe injection practices must be followed by the medical fraternity in the rural areas. Diabetics, who are using self-injections, must also be sensitised on the safe methods, state experts.