WHAT MAKES HEPATITIS A SILENT KILLER?

Hepatitis B and C are considered as blood-borne viruses. These are dreadful viruses that can cause terrible damages to the liver such as liver disease, liver failure and even liver cancer. About 40 million Indians are infected with hepatitis B and about 10 million are Hepatitis C positive. About one lakh people die every year due to viral hepatitis-related complications in India.

What causes it?  

In India, major contributors to the transmission of Hepatitis C infection are blood transfusions with inadequately screened blood, surgical procedures that follow unsafe practices and the use of unsterile needles. Secondary causes include sharing personal-care items such as razors with a person infected with the virus. Hepatitis B is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth, or through exposure to infected blood, especially from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first few years of life. It also gets transmitted through unprotected sex.

Given the silent nature of this virus, most people do not come to know that they are infected until the disease reaches an advanced stage. In fact, most cases are detected only with random blood screenings that are conducted before surgeries, before insurance or in women during pregnancy. The absence of routine vaccination and regular screening practice, thousands of people continue to live with the infection without even knowing they have it. These silent carriers may gradually develop liver disease and come to medical attention only when there is advanced liver disease or liver cancer, making cure difficult or impossible.

How to treat?

Hepatitis B is not curable but if detected in early stage, it can be treated with effective drugs that can keep the disease under control. We can avoid major complications with adequate treatment. Whereas hepatitis C is curable, if detected in the early stage. Hepatitis C can be cured now almost in > 95% of cases with appropriate vaccination at the early stage.

Hepatitis B and C are serious infections of the liver because if untreated it can lead to chronic liver diseases such as liver cirrhosis, liver failure and even liver cancer.  Hepatitis B is vaccine preventable whereas there is no vaccine yet to prevent hepatitis C. In recent years, the introduction of the new drugs has brought hope to the scenario and has made the hepatitis C highly curable.

How to prevent?

Awareness campaigns on needle and blood safety have to be conducted in large numbers. Awareness among the medical community about hepatitis viruses has to be raised as well, especially regarding,

  • The seriousness of an incidentally detected hepatitis B or C infection
  • Safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for hepatitis B
  • Efficacy of the newer antiviral therapy for Hepatitis C