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World Hepatitis Day: How to prevent it and save your liver

Dr. Rohan Badave, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Manipal Hospital, Goa



World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is celebrated every year on July 28th, the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg (1925–2011). Dr. Blumberg discovered the hepatitis B virus and he developed the first hepatitis B vaccine. This day creates an opportunity to educate people about the burden of these infections and actions people can take to prevent these infections. In the entire world, around 350 million people are affected by hepatitis. It is 9 times more than HIV. Mortality due to hepatitis is next to TB in India. This year 2023, the World Hepatitis Day theme is “One Life, One Liver”. A global call to fasten the necessary measurements that enhance prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of viral hepatitis, thereby improving liver health and achieving worldwide 2030 hepatitis elimination goals.
Hepatitis is nothing but inflammation of the liver. Patient presents with symptoms varying from asymptomatic to having jaundice, malaise, and diarrhea. Chronic hepatitis leads to cirrhosis and finally to Hepatocellular carcinoma. There are mainly five types of hepatitis viruses – A,B,C,D, and E.

Acute hepatitis is caused by Hepatitis A and hepatitis E. It is transmitted by fecal-oral route. Most of the time disease is self-limiting and needs just supportive care. Rarely Hepatitis A and E can lead to fulminant hepatitis and acute liver failure. Literature indicates that HAV is responsible for 10-30% of acute hepatitis and 5-15% of acute liver failure cases in India. It is further reported that HEV 10-40% of acute hepatitis and 15-45% of acute liver failure. It is estimated that 78,000 people worldwide died from acute hepatitis A-E infection complications in 2019 alone.

Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C leads to chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis of liver, acute on chronic liver failure and HCC. In India, as per latest estimates, 40 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and six to 12 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through parenteral route , mother –child transmission , sexual exposure , blood transfusion and sharing needles. High risk populations like sex workers, patient on dilalysis , health care workers , thalassemia patients requiring frequent blood transfusions should be screened for Hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis B is most common cause of cirrhosis of liver in India. Antiviral medicines are available for both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis c . Antiviral medicines in hepatitis B are 95-98% effective leading to viral load reduction while in Hepatitis c these medicines are > 95% effective for eradication of virus.
Preventive measures for hepatitis are
● Get vaccines for hepatitis (A and B).
● Use a condom during sex.
● Do not share needles to take medication.
● Maintaining personal hygiene, such as washing hands thoroughly with soap and water.
● Do not use the personal belongings of an infected person.
● Be aware while getting tattoos or body piercings.
● Make sure you are vaccinated when traveling to areas of the world with poor sanitation.
● Drink bottled water during your travel

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