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Amitabh Bachchan appointed regional WHO hepatitis ambassador

Hepatitis is one of Bachchan’s many public health campaigns. He most recently lent his fame and face to awareness campaigns on tuberculosis, childhood immunisation, polio and ‘clean India’.

health Updated: May 17, 2017 18:54 IST
Amitabh Bachchan,Bachchan,Bollywood
Fans pray before a newly-inagurated life-sized statue of the actor inside the “Amitabh Bachhan Fan Club” in Kolkata (AFP)

World Health Organization today appointed Amitabh Bachchan as its Goodwill Ambassador for Hepatitis in South-East Asia Region to boost awareness and intensify action to stop the spread of hepatitis, which sickens and is one of the leading causes of liver cancer and cirrhosis.

“I am absolutely committed to the cause of hepatitis. As a person living with hepatitis B, I know the pain and sufferings that hepatitis causes. No one should ever suffer from viral hepatitis,” said Bachchan.

Hepatitis is one of Bachchan’s many public health campaigns and he most recently lent his fame and face to tuberculosis, childhood immunisation, polio and ‘clean India’ campaigns.

The actor got infected with hepatitis B in 1982 through a blood transfusion after an accident on the sets of his film, Coolie. Bachchan showed no symptoms for close to 18 years after being infected. In 2000, he was told after a routine health checkup that his liver was infected and he had lost 75 per cent of his liver function.

Around 325 million people worldwide live with chronic hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that may cause liver scarring, liver cancer and death if untreated, said the World Health Organisation’s Global Hepatitis Report 2017 .

Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of liver damage but other infections, toxic substances (alcohol, certain medicine, food contaminants), bad lifestyle (fatty food, obesity) and autoimmune diseases may also cause chronic disease.

Of the five hepatitis viruses -- types A, B, C, D and E –the most deadly are types B and C, which together are the most common cause of liver damage. Hepatitis B, C and D spread by contact with contaminated blood or body fluids (the same way as HIV, but hepatitis B is 50 to 100 times more infectious 0), hepatitis A and E spread through unsafe food and drink. Jaundice outbreaks, like the Shimla outbreak in January 2016, are usually caused by Hepatitis E, which causes self-limiting disease but can trigger acute liver failure.

Symptoms usually appear when damage has set in, and include yellowing of the skin and eyes, abdominal pain and swelling, yellow urine, pale or dark stools, chronic fatigue, nausea and loss of appetite.

“Mr Bachchan’s voice is one that is listened to by people across the country, regardless of cultural, social or economic background and can make real change possible. We have witnessed this in polio eradication,” said J P Nadda, Union minister of health and family welfare.

As WHO Goodwill Ambassador, Bachchan will give his voice and support to public awareness programmes to scale up prevention measures, early diagnosis and treatment.

Hepatitis B vaccination – at 0, 1, 2, and 6 months. – provides protection and prevents mother-to-child transmission of the disease. Safe injections, blood transfusions and hospital practices prevent the spread of hepatitis B and C, which are blood-borne infections, while clean water and food hygienic reduce the risk of water-borne hepatitis A and E infections.

First Published: May 12, 2017 15:44 IST