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Battling Hepatitis, the silent killer

Jul 28, 2011 08:44 AM IST India India
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New Delhi: A latest report from the WHO says that viral Hepatitis will kill over five million people in South-East Asia in the next ten years.

Thirty-year-old Karan was shocked to learn that not only did he have Hepatitis, but that infections from multiple viruses can co-occur. He works at a hospital himself but nothing prepared him for a serious bout of liver infection, last November.

Karan said, "I was first told that I was suffering from Hepatitis A. But a couple of days later my condition worsened. I was tested again and they found I had Hepatitis E as well and both at the same time."

"Doctors said it could be because of anything - ice cubes in my drink somewhere or food that I had outside etc. It is that common," added Karan.

Viral Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. If not treated on time, can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and even death.

There are various types of Hepatitis viruses - Hepatitis A and E are largely waterborne; transmitted through contaminated food and water, and are easily treatable.

Hepatitis B spreads through contaminated blood and bodily fluids affecting more than 20 million people in India alone. In other words, one in every 20 Indians is a Hepatitis B carrier.

Of these, four million carry the highly infectious virus. Experts say it is 100 times more infectious than HIV.

But there is a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B. Not so with Hepatitis C. Once acquired, there is 80 per cent chance of developing chronic disease.

Dr Broor, a Gastroenterologist said, "50-60 per cent of patients are not aware that they are carrying the infections and therefore they do not go to a doctor and that leads to severe complications."

According to the WHO, Hepatitis viruses kill more people than malaria, dengue and HIV/AIDS combined. The focus of countries has to be on awareness and prevention. What you can do is get yourself regularly tested and vaccinated.