Chandigarh, July 25 ’11: One in 12 people worldwide are living with either Chronic Hepatitis B or C and yet majority of those infected are unaware.
28 July 2011 marks the first official World Health Organization-supported World Hepatitis Day. Hepatitis kills more than one million people every year. Millions more suffer immediate sickness or long-term ill health. World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to recognise viral hepatitis as a major global health problem in order to advance prevention and control.Liver is one of the vital organs of human body and plays a major role in detoxification, protein synthesis, production of biochemicals for digestion and metabolism. If liver gets infected then it impacts the body metabolism rate to a high extent. The most discreet liver disease known to mankind is Hepatitis.
HBV and HCV (Hepatitis B Virus and Hepatitis C Virus) are two viruses of Hepatitis. Hepatitis as a disease results in inflammation of liver. Studies show that 70% of Hepatitis patients get to know of symptoms only at a later stage when they start having symptoms like fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, jaundice etc.
On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day Dr. Mohinish Chhabra, Consultant Gastroenterologist with Fortis Hospital – Mohali talks in detail about the disease:
Who is at risk?
Blood is the main carrier of Hepatitis C virus. The virus is mainly spread through direct contact with the blood of a person who has Hepatitis C.
You CANNOT catch Hepatitis C through everyday contact such as holding hands or hugging and kissing, or through sharing toilets, plates and cups and kitchen utensils. Following are the main factors in causing Hepatitis B and C
• By sharing used Needles / Syringes – Needles and syringes are at the greatest risk of spreading Hepatitis C. Other drug-injecting equipment could also carry infection if they are contaminated with blood from someone who has the virus.
• Through a blood transfusion or blood products like clotting factors.
• From a mother with hepatitis C to her baby, before or during the birth.
Through unprotected sex (without a condom) with someone who has the virus.
• By having a tattoo, an ear piercing, a body piercing or acupuncture with un-sterilised or pre used equipment.
• During medical and dental treatment if the equipment used is not sterilised
• By sharing razor or toothbrush which has been contaminated with blood from someone who has the virus.
Reports say that only one in four people who are infected with hepatitis C get rid of the virus naturally. However, most people who become infected will have it for a very long time. This may affect them in different ways – some people will stay well throughout their life and about one in five people may develop severe liver damage (cirrhosis). In some people, cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer or liver failure too.
What is the difference between Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C?
For Hepatitis B, vaccines are readily available which need to be taken soon after birth whereas Hepatitis C does not have any vaccine but can be treated only when detected. If the infection is severe and chronic it may lead to death as well.
Dr. Mohinish Chhabra, recommends the following Do’s for a healthy liver
1. Avoid or limit consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs.
2. Maintain normal weight. Obesity is widely prevalent, and approximately 75 per cent of obese people have fatty liver— a disease that may lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
3. Avoid / Quit smoking, as it has been linked to the development of liver cancer
4. Follow healthy, well-balanced diet.
5. Practising safe sex – Engaging in protected sex greatly reduces the chance of getting infected with Hepatitis B. While the risk of sexual transmission of Hepatitis C is rare, protected sex is still recommended if a person engages in anal sex, has multiple sexual partners, has frequent prostate infections, has open cuts or sores on the genitalia, or is menstruating.
6. Avoid use of recreational drugs. Activities like Intravenous drug use are a common mode of Hepatitis B and C transmission. Reports show that Marijuana smoking leads to increased risk of liver scarring in those who have Hepatitis C.
7. If you have ever experimented with intravenous drugs, even just once, and even if it was many years ago, or if you have had a blood, blood product transfusion or organ transplant prior to 1992, one should definitely get tested for Hepatitis C. If you already have Hepatitis C, consider getting treated as it can be cured if detected in time.
9. Those who want to get a tattoo or have a body part pierced should make sure that they deal only with establishments that adhere to meticulous sterilisation practices.
10. Get regular health checkups done, including liver function tests. Get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B and do not take more than the recommended dose of medication.