Viral Hepatitis: The Silent Killer

July 28, 2017, 7:43 pm



Guwahati(Assam):On World Hepatitis Day (WHD) Department of Gastroenterology, Apollo Hospitals Guwahati Unit: International Hospital renewed their pledge to fight Hepatitis, which accounts for nearly 250,000 deaths in India each year. Approximately 1 in 12 persons worldwide, or some 500 million people, are living with chronic viral hepatitis. Around 70-80% of people with acute Hepatitis B and C do not even have any symptoms.The symptoms often go unnoticed, the reason why the disease is also known as the ‘silent killer.’ Viral Hepatitis is responsible for 1 million deaths worldwide each year, as many as those caused due to HIV/AIDS. It is the leading cause of liver cancer, which is the second biggest cancer killer globally.


To mark the occasion – World Hepatitis Day is observed on July 28 each year – a discussion cum awareness session was organized in Guwahati to spread awareness about Hepatitis. There is an urgent need for greater awareness and prevention, encouraging communities and governments around the world to work together against the‘silent killer.’


Expressing concern on the alarming rise of Hepatitis cases in Guwahati,Dr ArvindKelkar, Dr Kamal Chetri, Dr MukeshAgarwala and Dr Prasanna K S – Consultants of Department of Gastroenterology, Apollo Hospital Guwahati said,“Hepatitis is a silent killer as it rarely presents symptoms until very late. Studies reported from various parts of India estimate that about 20 million Indians are Hepatitis B carriers and about 12 million may have silent Hepatitis C virus infection.These individuals do not know that they have these infections.For example, a person infected with hepatitis C virus may carry the virus for as long as 10 years or even 20 years without presenting any obvious symptom. Regular health check-up is advised for people above 40 years of age. Also, mass awareness, universal guidelines for immunization and hygienic handling of food and water can reduce the liver disease burden substantially.”


Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and deaths they may cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic diseases in hundreds of millions of people and together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer. Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids.


Key facts ( Hepatitis B )

·                                 Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.

·                                 The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.

·                                 An estimated 257 million people are living with hepatitis B virus infection (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen positive).

·                                 In 2015, hepatitis B resulted in 887 000 deaths, mostly from complications (including cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma).

·                                 Hepatitis B is an important occupational hazard for health workers.

·                                 However, it can be prevented by currently available safe and effective vaccine.


Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is a major global health problem. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.

A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982. The vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer due to hepatitis B.


Key facts (Hepatitis C)

·                                 Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus: the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.

·                                 The hepatitis C virus is a bloodborne virus and the most common modes of infection are through exposure to small quantities of blood. This may happen through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products.

·                                 Globally, an estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C infection.

·                                 A significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

·                                 Approximately 399 000 people die each year from hepatitis C, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

·                                 Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95% of persons with hepatitis C infection, thereby reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis, but access to diagnosis and treatment is low.

·                                 There is currently no vaccine for hepatitis C; however research in this area is ongoing.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) causes both acute and chronic infection. Acute HCV infection is usually asymptomatic, and is only very rarely (if ever) associated with life-threatening disease. About 15–45% of infected persons spontaneously clear the virus within 6 months of infection without any treatment.

The remaining 55–85% of persons will develop chronic HCV infection. Of those with chronic HCV infection, the risk of cirrhosis of the liver is between 15–30% within 20 years.


World Hepatitis Day

World Hepatitis Day was launched by the World Hepatitis Alliance in 2008 in response to the concern that chronic viral hepatitis did not have the level of awareness, nor the political momentum, seen with other communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. This is despite the fact that the number of people chronically infected with, and the number of deaths caused by, hepatitis B and C is on the same scale as these conditions. World Hepatitis Day has generated massive public and media interest, as well as support from governments, high-profile Non-Governmental Organisations and supranational bodies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). To date, more than 1,000 events have taken place around the world, from rock concerts and press briefings to ministerial meetings and fundraising events.

In May 2010, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution on viral hepatitis which, together with vital commitments on prevention, treatment and patient care, made World Hepatitis Day an official WHO awareness day. WHO is now working with the Alliance as a collaborating partner on WHD 2011. In recognition of the birthday of Professor Baruch Blumberg, who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the hepatitis B virus, WHO decided that World Hepatitis Day will be observed on 28 July each year.

Photo for representational purposes only



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