New Delhi: World Hepatitis Day (WHD), which is celebrated annually on July 28, brings the world together under a single theme to raise awareness about the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In 2021 the theme is ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait’.This theme conveys the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
Hepatitis, which causes inflammation in the liver, is a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. The function of the liver is to process nutrients, filtering the blood, and fighting infections.
Hepatitis is commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are several risk factors for hepatitis, such as excessive consumption of alcohol, toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions. The World Health Organization has identified Hepatitis as a major health concern for India.
To commemorate the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, Fortis Healthcare raised awareness around it and the availability of the vaccine for the same. Speaking about the treatment options, Dr Jayant Sharma, Director Gastroenterology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Jaipur, said, “Treatment options are determined by the type of hepatitis and whether the infection is acute or chronic. Some types of hepatitis are preventable through vaccination. The COVID 19 pandemic has worked as a wake-up call for the entire world to be more cautious about flu-like symptoms. We need to ensure that we take even mild symptoms seriously and if they occur too frequently or persist, they must be immediately brought to the attention of a medical professional.”
Aligned with the theme of this year, ‘Hepatitis can’t wait’, doctors are sensitizing the public on how mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, persistent fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, loss of appetite should be taken seriously and treated in a timely manner so that the type of hepatitis can be identified, diagnosed, and treated before it is too late.
Dr Ajay Bhalla, Director, Gastroenterology, Fortis Hospital, Noida, spoke about the importance of sensitizing people about Hepatitis and said, “The aim of commemorating World Hepatitis Day is to sensitize people about Hepatitis disease and how we can save many lives from this disease by taking necessary precautions. While we are grappling with the COVID 19 pandemic, WHO has declared Hepatitis as a major concern. Almost 325 million people across the globe are living with Viral Hepatitis and every year almost 1.34 million deaths occur due to Hepatitis.”
He further added that “people, who have chronic Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C, might be at a greater risk of getting infected with the Coronavirus. Hepatitis is usually difficult to diagnose as it starts with mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, body ache, and fatigue and most of us tend to ignore the same.”
Since, only a handful of people know that vaccine is available for Hepatitis A and B, therefore, it has become more necessary to continue the conversation around Hepatitis to spread awareness about the disease, what can be the risk factors and how to prevent it.
Hepatitis affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic diseases and killing close to 1.34 million people every year. Along with causing liver diseases, it can also kill a person. In some countries, hepatitis B is the commonest cause of cirrhosis and may also cause liver cancer (HCC).
As per the WHO, in India by 2020, about 4 crore people were chronically infected with hepatitis B, and 60 lakh to 1.2 crore people were chronically infected with hepatitis C. According to the Indian Journal of Medical Research, in India, about 2,50,000 people die of viral hepatitis or its sequelae every year. With a person dying every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness, even in the current COVID-19 crisis, people shouldn’t wait to act on viral hepatitis.
Aditya Saini, Founder and CEO, CNC PATHLAB, said, “We can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis. It has become the seventh leading cause of mortality worldwide. Though Hepatitis A and B are vaccine-preventable diseases, they continue to be the most commonly reported. Preventive healthcare often takes a backseat in our country due to the ever-increasing population, unequal access to healthcare due to expenses, and lack of manpower.”
He concluded by stating that “policymakers at both the national and regional levels should increase political and financial commitments for hepatitis response. Even common man should come out and get tested and treated.”