By:- Dr Navneet Ranjan & Dr Deepali Upadhyaya : 28 July 2011 was marked as first official World Hepatitis Day by World Health Organizations (WHO). According to WHO About one million deaths per year are attributed to viral hepatitis infections. World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to raises awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes. We can also focus on actions like: strengthening prevention, increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and coordinating a global response to hepatitis.
What is Viral Hepatitis?
Together hepatitis B and C represent one of the major threats to global health. Hepatitis B and C are both ‘silent’ viruses, and because many people feel no symptoms, you could be infected for years without knowing it. If left untreated, both the hepatitis B and C viruses can lead to liver scarring (cirrhosis).
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises that hepatitis B is one of the major diseases affecting mankind today. Hepatitis B is one of the most common viral infections in the world and the WHO estimates that two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus and approximately 350 million people are living with chronic (lifelong) infections. 500,000 – 700,000 people die every year from hepatitis B.
The hepatitis B virus is highly infectious and about 50-100 times more infectious than HIV.
The hepatitis B virus is transmitted between people through contact with the blood or other body fluids (i.e. saliva, semen and vaginal fluid) of an infected person. Although not all people will have any signs of the virus, those that do may experience the following symptoms: Flu-like symptoms,Fatigue,Nausea,Jaundice (yellowing of the skin),Stomach ache,Diarrhoea/dark urine/bright stools,Aching joints
Hepatitis C is different from hepatitis B in that the virus more frequently stays in the body for longer than six months, and therefore becomes chronic. Hepatitis C is mainly spread through blood-to-blood contact and, similarly to hepatitis B, there are often no symptoms but if they are present can include:Flu-like symptoms,Fatigue,Nausea,Aching muscles and joints,Anxiety and depression,Poor concentration,Stomach ache,Loss of appetite,Dark urine/bright stools.
Prevention is better than cure
. The most common routes of infection are:
• Blood transfusions and blood products using unscreened blood (in most countries, but not all, blood has been screened since about 1990)
• Medical or dental interventions without adequate sterilisation of equipment
• Mother to infant during childbirth
• Sharing equipment for injecting drugs
• Sharing straws, notes etc. for snorting cocaine
• Sharing razors, toothbrushes or other household articles
• Tattooing and body piercing if done using unsterilised equipment
Hepatitis B can be prevented through Vaccine. There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C.