Most people who have hepatitis do not know they are infected: Doctors

  • Aayushi Pratap, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 28, 2016 00:34 IST
Hepatitis B and C infections are transmitted through contaminated blood and needles, unsafe sex and from an infected mother to her newborn child, doctors said. (HT Photo)

Blood banks in Mumbai reported 3,115 cases of hepatitis B and 1436 cases of Hepatitis C in blood samples between 2014 and 2015.

Of the nearly 3,00,000 units of blood that were tested in 2015-16, nearly one% was found infected with hepatitis B and 0.5% with hepatitis C. While the percentage of infected blood samples may not give an exact indication of the prevalence of the disease in the community, doctors said that it showed that many people may not be aware that they are infected with the virus.

Read: If the govt. acts now, India can eliminate hepatitis B by 2080: experts

Hepatitis B and C infections are transmitted through contaminated blood and needles, unsafe sex and from an infected mother to her newborn child, doctors said. National Aids Control Guidelines require donated blood to be screened for the disease. “There is a possibility that most of the blood donors were not aware of the infection,” said Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director, Maharashtra Districts Aids Control Society.

According to latest press release by the World Health Organisation (WHO), 95% of people infected with hepatitis B or C around the world do not know they are infected. The WHO says that will shortly release new testing guidelines for the infections.

“The hepatitis B virus remains dormant in the liver for about 25 years. While it slowly damages the liver, one only experiences the symptoms after the liver is damaged up to 75%,” said Dr Ravi Mohenka, transplant surgeon at Global Hospitals, Parel.

Read: Breakthrough Hepatitis C treatment set to enter India soon

“Unlike a decade back, we now have drugs such as that can completely eliminate the virus. But people need to get diagnosed for that,” he added.

Ahead of world Hepatitis day on July 28, city doctors said that there is a need to boost the hepatitis B vaccination programme, which has been a part of the National Immunisation Programme since 2011.

“The kind of publicity HIV gets, hepatitis B does not get the same level of awareness. We need more campaigns about Hepatitis B and C,” said Dr Philip Abhraham, consultant gastroenterologist, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.

According to data from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, 895 cases of hepatitis A and E, which are mainly spread through consumption of contaminated food and water, this year.

“We always see a spurt in hepatitis cases during monsoon. However, this year we have seen more number of cases as compared to last year,” said Dr Mini Khetarpal, chief epidemiologist, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). This year, only one death caused by Hepatitis A, has been reported in the city.

“Around 95% of the people who have hepatitis A and E infections recover spontaneously. Only 5% develop acute liver failure,” said Dr Anurag Shrimal, liver transplant surgeon, Wockhardt Hospital, Bombay Central.


World Hepatitis Day is celebrated on July 28

-There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E

-Hepatitis A and E are spread by contaminated food or water.

-Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of contact with infected body fluids such as blood or invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment.

- Hepatitis B and C infections are most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer

Disease 2013 2014 2015 2016

Hepatitis A/E 1410 1418 1184 895 (till July 24)

Hepatitis B (from Blood 58 blood Banks) 3702 3563 3115

Hepatitis C (From 58 Blood Banks ) 2469 2110 1436

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