Agartala, April 26 (IANS): India is very vulnerable to hepatitis as it is yet to initiate a mass vaccination programme to check the disease, experts say, pointing out that half the world's children who have not been vaccinated are in the country.
"Over 50 percent of the world's 44 million children who have not got the hepatitis vaccine are in India, making them most vulnerable to the disease," S.P. Singh, secretary of the Indian National Association for the Study of Liver (INASL), told IANS.
"Many nations across the world, including Bangladesh and Pakistan, but excluding India, have undertaken a mass hepatitis vaccination programme," Singh said.
Singh and many other liver disease and hepatitis experts from India and abroad were here to attend a two-day national seminar that began Monday.
According to experts, of the six Hepatitis strains (A, B, C, D, E and G), Hepatitis B and C are the most dangerous as these are transmitted through blood.
"Two to four percent Indians in the plains and 20 percent tribals in the mountainous areas, including the northeastern region, are affected by Hepatitis B virus," said Singh, who is also head of the department of gastroenterology in SCB Medical College, Cuttack, Orissa.
In Tripura, over 5,000 children have so far been covered under the 'at birth Hepatitis vaccination' programme since January this year.
To make the state hepatitis free, the NGO Hepatitis Foundation of Tripura (HFT) in association with the Tripura government had launched the programme Jan 7.
"This is, in fact, a China model where they have attained maximum success of 99.98 percent after running the 'at birth Hepatitis B vaccination," said HFT president Pradip Bhaumik.
HFT has been spearheading the movement for a hepatitis-free world for 10 years.
"The disease can cause liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma and serious other liver ailments and other organ damage," Bhaumik told IANS.
Experts urged Indian and other state governments to introduce the Tripura model across the country.
Also present at the meet was Abhijit Choudhury, head of the department of gastroenterology and liver diseases in the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research and Seth Sukhlal Karnani Memorial Hospital in Kolkata.
"Hepatitis B and C are dangerous diseases like AIDS and cancer. Though the vaccines for Hepatitis are easily available, the Indian government is yet to take the mass vaccination programme in India."
"After hepatitis turned into an epidemic in Taiwan, the authorities in 1984 launched the 'at birth Hepatitis B vaccination' and achieved over 99 percent success," he added.
Bhaumik said: "In India, among liver disease patients, 30 percent of them are alcoholic liver disease sufferers."
Choudhury and Bhaumik said a large number of people also suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
According to Chennai's Apollo Hospital consultant gastroenterologist AT Mohan, due to population migration and associated microbial migration, various diseases like Hepatitis B and C were being transmitted among newer people, specially tribals.