Indians affected by a contagious virus
World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised viral hepatitis as a serious health problem in India with over 52 million people suffering from acute hepatitis in the country. And as a result, affected families, as well as the health systems, are facing social and economic burden. 40 million people in the country are chronically infected with Hepatitis B and around 6 to 12 million are infected with Hepatitis C, according to an assessment by WHO. It also reports that Hepatitis E virus is the most important cause of epidemic hepatitis, and Hepatitis A is more common among children. Most acute liver failures diagnosed are attributed to Hepatitis E.
Not knowing they are affected
Hepatitis is referred to inflammation of liver normally caused by hepatitis viruses A,B,C,D and E. It can become severe and result in liver fibrosis, cirrhosis or liver cancer. The major concern for WHO is that most people — 95% of them — are unaware that they are being affected by chronic hepatitis and, therefore, later succumb to cancer or cirrhosis. According to WHO, one reason for this is because people can live without symptoms for many years and when they find out they have hepatitis, it is often too late for treatment to be fully effective.
More efforts needed
The rising concern on hepatitis has caused the UN to come up with its first ever hepatitis testing guidelines. It has also asked its member-countries, including India, to make greater efforts to curb the spread of the infection. Globally, around 400 million people are infected with Hepatitis B and C.