Seven out of 10 people in India have had a mild attack of Hepatitis A by the age of 16, the highest in the world. In most cases, it goes unnoticed because the generic symptoms are usually dismissed as “food poisoning”.
Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B, but there are no vaccines offering protection against Hepatitis C, D and E.
“Prevention is the best treatment by minimising exposure to contaminated blood, body fluids, food and water,” said Dr Shiv Kumar Sarin, director, Institute of Liver & Biliary Sciences (ILBS).
Hepatitis is a rising cause of worry as it is a silent infection that progresses without the patient developing the symptoms of jaundice or fever. If untreated, it causes liver cirrhosis, liver failure or liver cancer.
“Delhi was the first state to offer free Hepatitis B vaccination in 2001. Since then, three million have been vaccinated and one-sixth of the state's population is protected against the liver-damaging disease,” said Delhi health minister Dr AK Walia at the 15th Hepatitis Day celebration at ILBS on Tuesday.
Among those present were Delhi Women and Child Development Minister Kiran Walia, Delhi health secretary SCL Das, MCD commissioner east (S. S. Yadav), and Amity group president Ashok Chauhan.
Most jaundice outbreaks during the rains are caused by Hepatitis E, which spreads though contaminated water, with each episode of illness lasting for two to four weeks.
There's no treatment and the infection usually clears on its own. Symptoms include fever, headache, vomiting, yellowing of the eyes and skin, and loss of appetite.
“The best method of making water safe is by “roll-boiling” it for 10 minutes to kill all disease-causing micro-organisms. it is much safer than water filters,” says Dr Vikas Khillan, associate professor, microbiology, ILBS.