Awareness and urgent action needed to achieve the target of ending viral hepatitis by 2030

New Delhi, 27 August 2018: The Indian government launched the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme this month with a goal of ending viral hepatitis by 2030. Under this programme, free drugs and diagnostics for hepatitis B and C will also be offered. The initiative aims to reduce morbidity and mortality due to the disease apart from preventive and promotive interventions; collaboration with different ministries; increasing access to testing and treatment facilities; and building capacities up to sub-district level.

Viral hepatitis is a major public health challenge in India and affects about 40 million individuals. According to the WHO, deaths due to viral hepatitis are much more than those due to AIDS and tuberculosis. Viral hepatitis is either transmitted through contaminated food or water (A, E) or via blood and body fluids (B, C).

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Viral hepatitis and HIV coinfection is a common problem and challenge to the treating clinician. People with HIV who are coinfected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) are at increased risk for serious, life-threatening health complications. All people living with HIV should be tested for Hepatitis B and C infections as well.HIV, HBV, and HCV have similar routes of transmission. They spread by contact with infected body fluids such as blood, semen and vaginal fluid, or from a mother to her baby during pregnancy or delivery. Due to these shared routes of transmission, people at risk for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV or HCV infection. Of these, HIB is more infectious.”

The signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis appear quickly and include fatigue, flu-like symptoms, dark urine, pale stool, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, unexplained weight loss, and yellow skin and eyes, which may be signs of jaundice.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “Acute hepatitis due to any virus is usually self-limiting and requires a good diet, bed rest and only symptomatic treatment. Urgent hospitalization may be required only in cases of acute liver failure in acute viral hepatitis. One may also need intensive treatment and liver transplant. There is a need for urgent and immediate action against this deadly condition as also raising awareness about its symptoms. It is also important to complete the vaccine regimen failing which the complications can exacerbate.”

This and other health topics will also be a subject of discussion at the 25th MTNL Perfect Health Mela to be held between 24th and 28th October 2018 at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium, New Delhi.

Some tips from HCFI

  • Maintain quality standards for public water supplies
  • Establish proper disposal systems for human feces
  • Maintain hygienic practices such as handwashing with safe water, particularly before handling food
  • Avoid consumption of water and/or ice of unknown purity
  • Get immunized at regular intervals as advised
  • Safe blood transfusion
  • Safe injection
  • Test any donated blood for hepatitis B and C
  • Indulge in safe sex and promote correct and consistent use of condoms