Hepatitis is a most serious heath disorder of an important body organ i.e. liver. Out of the five recognized hepatitis viruses, hepatitis B is of great importance because of the number of people who are chronically infected with it. It is estimated that close to 40 million Indians are living with this infection. A study of Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) revealed that every year, nearly 600,000 patients die from Hepatitis B Virus infection in the Indian continent.
World Hepatitis day is celebrated all over the world on 28h July. This year’s campaign Prevent Hepatitis aiming to make aware the common people globally about hepatitis.
Most of these infected individuals have no symptoms and are usually unaware that they are infected. This infection causes chronic inflammation in the liver that over time leads to the hardening of the liver and death of functional tissue. In addition this infection has been noted to be responsible for nearly half of all the liver cancer cases in the country
The infection spreads from one person to another through contact with an infected person’s blood. However, hugging, talking, or shaking hands with an infected person does not lead to the infection spreading. The most effective way of preventing the infection is getting vaccinated; this vaccine can prevent the infection in more than 95% of the patients.
Since this infection usually does not have symptoms the only way to detect this infection is through blood tests. Detecting it is often a simple affair and most laboratories are equipped to screen for this infection. Depending on a person’s risk to exposure of the virus, doctors recommend screening for the virus. The risk of contracting the infection is higher if an individual has family members with hepatitis-B, or whose mother has hepatitis B, or have had unprotected sex or shared needles for injection, gotten tattoo’s through unsterilized equipment or have received blood transfusion in the past.
Doctors encourage all those at risk to get themselves screened and if they are not infected to get vaccinated for protection. Those that suspect that they are infected should visit their doctor for more information. Symptoms like jaundice, fatigue, loss of appetite, dark urine and body pain may sometimes suggest hepatitis. Patients with these symptoms should visit their doctor for screening of hepatitis B. The earlier the infection is detected better is outcome with treatment. Although if the infection has become chronic it cannot be cured, available treatment can very effectively control the virus.
According to Dr. Sandeep Kulkarni, Consultant Gastroenterologist & Hepatologist, Sahyadri Hospitals, many patients come a late stage in the infection. At this point it is difficult to change the course of the disease.
The dangers of being ignorant of this infection often comes at a great cost for those who are infected. Although the infection remains silent for many years, it is constantly damaging the liver. Over a period of time the liver maybe irreversibly damaged or the person may develop liver cancer. The message is simple, just because its invisible does not mean it’s not there and just because it has no symptoms it does not mean you are safe. Get tested, and be protected.
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2014 The Global Indian New Network (TGINN)