Hepatitis is proving to be a silent killer worldwide and it is absolutely necessary to make people aware of the symptoms of the disease and the precautions that need to be taken, say medical experts. Now in its third year, World Hepatitis Awareness Day, which is observed Oct 1, aims to increase awareness about hepatitis B and C. The theme for this year is “Get Tested”.
“Hepatitis C is a silent disease. Most of the people are unaware that they have hepatitis C. Only a blood test can detect the virus,” says S. Broor, senior gastroenterologist at the Apollo Hospital here. “The groups at risk for acquiring the disease include intravenous drug users, haemodialysis patients and healthcare workers with exposure to blood and its products, transfusion and transplant recipients and people with tattoos.”
Says G.L. Telang, managing director, Roche Scientific Company India Pvt. Ltd.: “With hepatitis C affecting people at an alarming rate, the need of the hour is to not only go for innovative and technological treatment but also create awareness about the disease.”
In his message, Irish anti-poverty campaigner and rocker Bob Geldof says: “Stigma, shame and fear can suffocate awareness. These barriers prevent people from getting tested, receiving treatment and clearing themselves of this disease. Seek advice from your doctor and ask about the risk factors for hepatitis C.”
Both forms of viral hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplantation and yet hepatitis B can be prevented through immunisation and in many cases, hepatitis C can be cured.
In India, hepatitis B is a major health concern with the number of estimated to be over 40 million whereas it is estimated that 10.9 million people suffer from chronic hepatitis C – which is double the number of people suffering from HIV.
Every year, the number of people infected with the hepatitis C virus rises by three to four million worldwide, adding to the 170 million people already infected.
Nationwide trends indicate a sizeable concentration of hepatitis C cases in the northeastern states. Among the metros, 400,000 Delhiites are suffering from hepatitis C while Mumbai accounts for 300,000 cases