Hepatitis is the second major killer infectious disease after tuberculosis, and 9 times more people are infected with hepatitis than HIV.
“The common modes of transmission of hepatitis B and C are inadvertent blood transfusion, tattooing, body piercing, shaving with infected blades, unprotected sex, mother to child transmission in delivery especially seen with hepatitis B in mother. One of the most important causes of liver cancer is chronic hepatitis B globally. Chronic infections of hepatitis B and C virus may not show symptoms for a long period, sometimes years or decades,” says Dr Chandan Kumar, Consultant Hepatologist and Liver Transplant Physician, Kauvery Hospital.
Hence, it is extremely important to regularly screen for hepatitis B and C. The upside about hepatitis B is the availability of vaccine which can protect an individual from contracting hepatitis B infection. It is very important for all family members to be screened for hepatitis B and vaccinate themselves if anyone in the family has been detected with hepatitis B. The downside is that once hepatitis B infection becomes chronic, it can rarely be cured as the virus gets into the human DNA in the liver cells and remain forever.
Dr Chandan Kumar added that to cure hepatitis C, there is adequate availability of easy, safe and finite treatment which can cure hepatitis C in most of the cases. However, till date there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Hence when it comes to hepatitis C, it is important to detect it in the early stages and treat immediately to get cured of the infection and prevent its long-term sequelae such as liver cirrhosis and so on.
A person can only become infected by hepatitis D if they already are infected by hepatitis B. Drinking contaminated water can lead to Hepatitis E virus (HEV). Hepatitis X also is one of the diseases which cannot be attributed to any of their viral forms while hepatitis G is another type of hepatitis caused by a specific virus (HGV). The presence of hepatitis itself is a red flag for the body. The initial symptoms of hepatitis are almost similar to those suffering from flu.
“Two out of every three sufferers of liver cancer are carriers of Hepatitis virus. Identifying the presence of these viruses at an early stage and treating them will help prevent the patients from developing liver cancer later in their lives, which could bring down the prevalence of liver cancer by two-thirds. This is why it is important to identify this disease as early as possible. Using condoms prevents the spreading of Hepatitis B and C virus. There are vaccines to prevent the spreading of Hepatitis B virus,” said Dr Radha M, Consultant Gastroenterology, Fortis Malar Hospital.
She adds that for the past 10 years, this vaccine is being given to babies. Those born before this period must inoculate themselves. Medicines are available to completely get rid of this disease. Therefore, undergoing a complete course of treatment, if the virus is detected in the blood, ensures that the disease is removed.