Today marks World Hepatitis Day. Established by the World Health Assembly in 2010, this is the fourth celebration of the annual day. This day makes a clarion call for the change in attitude to viral hepatitis and bring about awareness about this global disease. This year’s theme, ‘Think Again’ acknowledges that ‘we do not know nearly enough about viral hepatitis as a health threat in much of the world.’
Viral Hepatitis is a leading cause of global infectious diseases mortality each year, causing approximately 1.4 million deaths. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 400 million people have chronic viral hepatitis worldwide and most of them do not even know they are infected. More than one million people die each year from causes related to viral hepatitis, commonly cirrhosis and liver cancer.
According to an Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences statement, India has over 40 million hepatitis B (HBV) infected patients (second only to China) and constitutes about 15 per cent of the entire pool of hepatitis B in the world. Tribal areas in India have high prevalence of hepatitis B. Every year, nearly 600,000 patients die from HBV infection in the Indian continent.
What is hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and is caused by a viral infections that affects the liver . The most common types are Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A: This type derives from an infection with the HAV(Hepatitis A virus) and is transmitted by consuming food or water that has been contaminated by feces.
Hepatitis B: Caused by infection with the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and transmitted through ruptured wounds or contact with infectious bodily fluids such as blood, saliva or semen.
Hepatitis C: Caused by infection with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids.
Heatitis D: It’s a rare form of Hepatitis which is a serious liver disease caused by the Hepatitis D virus (HDV) which is transmitted through puncture wounds or contact with infected blood.
Hepatitis E: It’s a waterborne disease caused by the Hepatitis E virus (HEV) and is commonly found in areas with poor sanitation.
In many cases, most of the people don’t even know that they have hepatitis. Many people with hepatitis go undiagnosed as there are no symptoms at all. In other cases, the most common symptoms of hepatitis are:
- Loss of appetite
- Mild fever
- Muscle or joint aches Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
How to save yourself from Hepatitis:
Vaccinations are available to prevent the development of hepatitis A and B and researches are underway to devise vaccines against hepatitis C, D, and E soon.
However, the best way you can prevent the onset of this disease is to maintain a hygienic lifestyle and practice high sanitary standards.
While travelling, be very careful while consuming water/raw foods. Take precaution when traveling to areas of the world with poor sanitation. Make sure you get immunized against hepatitis A beforehand.
The risk of hepatitis A infection is especially lowered by washing your hands because the virus spreads through the fecal-oral route.
Remember not to share items that may have been contaminated with someone else’s blood, such as toothbrushes, razors and needles. Always use a condom while having sex.