Vaccines and antivirals are key to fight this major public health threat
Jammu,29 March 2019: Noted Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Dr. Vijant Singh Chandail, revealed that India is at the second position after China in terms of the number of chronic hepatitis B infections. As per data available with the Health Ministry, nearly 50 million Indians have chronically infected with Hepatitis B. It is not only the most serious type of viral hepatitis but also highly contagious. He stated that people with vaccination and timely initiation of antiviral treatment are the pillars of HBV prevention and control to prevent the development of major life-threatening complications of chronic liver disease – cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and liver cancer.
In India, viral hepatitis is now recognized as a serious public health problem. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through contact with infected blood or other body fluids of an infected person. This can happen through sexual contact, sharing of infected needles and syringes, use of contaminated invasive medical equipment, or from an infected mother to her baby at birth. Healthcare workers are a particularly high-risk group, because of their frequent contact with patients or infected material.
With an aim to eliminate Hepatitis from India by 2030, the ministry has launched the “National Action Plan – Viral Hepatitis”. Under this programme, free drugs are being provided at all government hospitals for those suffering from Hepatitis B. Focus is also on screening HIV/AIDS patients and, if found positive, they are being put on treatment. Chronic Hepatitis B cannot be cured and must be managed with antiviral medicines, often necessitating life-long treatment. Newer oral drugs are now available in India which shows improved efficacy rates with better safety profiles.
Dr. Chandail said, “Most cases of acute HBV infections are asymptomatic. Some patients, however, show symptoms that last several weeks, such as yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Several blood tests are available to diagnose hepatitis B that help distinguish between HBV and other cases of viral hepatitis.”