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City doctors renew pledge to fight hepatitis

By Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, July 28 � On the occasion of the World Hepatitis Day today, doctors in Guwahati renewed their pledge to fight hepatitis, which accounts for nearly 2,50,000 deaths in India each year.

A discussion-cum-awareness session was organised in the city to spread awareness about hepatitis in view of the urgent need for greater awareness and prevention, encouraging communities and governments around the world to work together against the �silent killer.� The disease is mainly caused by consumption of infected food or water, unprotected sex with a person who has the disease, or through direct contact with infected blood or fluids by usage of infected needles or sharing of razors or other shaving devices.

Expressing concern over the alarming rise of hepatitis cases in Guwahati and the north-eastern States, doctors from the Department of Gastroenterology, International Hospital, Guwahati said, �Hepatitis is a silent killer as it rarely presents symptoms until very late. Studies reported from various parts of India estimate that about 20 million Indians are Hepatitis B carriers and about 12 million may have silent Hepatitis C virus infection.

�These individuals do not know that they have these infections. For example, a person infected with hepatitis C virus may carry the virus for as long as ten years or even 20 years without presenting any obvious symptom. Regular health check-up is advised for people above 40 years of age. Also, mass awareness, universal guidelines for immunization and hygienic handling of food and water can reduce the liver disease burden substantially,� a statement said.

Approximately one in 12 persons worldwide, or some 500 million people, are living with chronic viral hepatitis and around 70-80 per cent of people with acute Hepatitis C do not even have any symptoms. The symptoms often go unnoticed, the reason why the disease is also known as the �silent killer.� Viral Hepatitis is responsible for 1.5 million deaths worldwide each year, as many as those caused due to HIV/AIDS. It is the leading cause of liver cancer, which is the second biggest cancer killer globally.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and deaths they may cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic diseases in hundreds of millions of people and together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids through usage of infected needles or sharing of razors or other shaving devices.

About 130-170 million people worldwide are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus, and more than 350,000 people die from hepatitis C-related liver diseases each year. In India about 10 million people are anti-HCV positive and 5 million of them may be viraemic. Of these, nearly 25%, i.e. over 1 million, may develop chronic liver disease within 2 decades and 1%-4% of them may develop liver cancer. There are about 12 million hepatitis C carriers in lndia. Most of them do not know that they are infected.

Prevalence of anti-HCV antibody in India is around one per cent. Studies carried out in different regions of India indicate genotype 3 as the most commonly identified genotype. Transfusion and use of unsterile syringes are the dominant mode of transmission of HCV in India. Eighty per cent of post-transfusion hepatitis in India is due to HCV 3. Fifteen-twenty per cent of all chronic liver diseases and hepatocellular cancer HCC in India are caused by HCV.

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