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World Hepatitis Day today: Virus can remain in liver for 25 years, only 1 in 20 people know they have it

Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through unscreened blood transfusions, contaminated blood and needles, unsafe sex and from an infected mother to her newborn child

mumbai Updated: Jul 28, 2017 09:41 IST
Aayushi Pratap
Aayushi Pratap
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Hepatitis B,Blood donation
Doctors said diagnosing the disease was more challenging than treating it. (Pic for Representation)

One percent of around 3 lakh blood units donated in the city in the past year had Hepatitis B and 0.5% had Hepatitis C virus.

Dr Srikala Acharya, additional project director, Maharashtra Districts Aids Control Society, said while the data does not reveal the exact prevalence of Hepatitis B and C in the city, it does show that more people are being detected with the viral infection.

Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through unscreened blood transfusions, contaminated blood and needles, unsafe sex and from an infected mother to her newborn child. If treatment is not initiated on time, the virus can damage the liver. Patients may eventually need a liver transplant, which costs lakhs.

“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 75% damaged,” said Dr Ravi Mohenka, transplant surgeon at Global Hospital, Parel.

Doctors said diagnosing the disease was more challenging than treating it.

“Unlike a decade ago, we now have drugs that can completely eliminate the virus. But people need to get diagnosed for that,” Dr Mohenka added.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 4 crore people in India live with chronic Hepatitis B and an additional six lakh with Hepatitis C, which accounts for 40% and 20% of Hepatitis B and C infections in south-east Asia.

“Today only 1 in 20 people with viral hepatitis know they have it. And just 1 in 100 with the disease is being treated,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal, regional director of WHO South-East Asia Region

Ahead of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, city doctors said 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. We need more campaigns about Hepatitis B and C,” said Dr Philip Abhraham, consultant gastroenterologist, PD Hinduja Hospital, Mahim.

First Published: Jul 28, 2017 00:09 IST