From this year onwards, World Hepatitis Day will be observed on July 28. The day was chosen to honour birthday of professor Bloomberg who discovered hepatitis B virus in 1960s. Doctors say only viruses are not responsible for all hepatitis infections. These can occur due to alcohol, medicines (drug induced), fat deposition in liver and also autoimmune hepatitis – when immune cells mistake liver’s normal cells as harmful invaders and attack them.
No national registry with statewise data on hepatitis exists in the country. It is estimated that 20 million people are hepatitis B carriers and about 8-10 million may be suffering from hepatitis C virus infection.
Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E can cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of liver leading to cirrhosis and liver cancer. These viruses constitute a major global health risk with around 350 million people being chronically infected with hepatitis B and around 170 million with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C cause cirrhosis besides alcohol being another major reason for chronic liver disease.
People who undergo frequent dialysis, thalassemic patients who receive multiple transfusion, intravenous drug abusers, persons who receive injections by usage of unsterilized needles and those going through unsafe sexual practices are at increased risk. Hepatitis B and C can be prevented if proper precautions are made. Vaccination for hepatitis B is available but not for hepatitis C at present.
Hepatitis A and E are seen more in people who do not eat home food, hostel students and kids in day care centres.
Many epidemics of jaundice also have been reported in the past. Both hepatitis A and E can be prevented by practising consumption of safe food and water.
“Cost of drugs and treatment of chronic hepatitis such as B and C values between Rs 2-5 lakh. Alcohol causes hep C, mostly in Punjab. Drug abuse is too a concern,” said Dr Yogesh Chawla, head of hepatology department, PGI.