World Hepatitis Day 2012
World Hepatitis Day 2012 was observed on Saturday, the 28th July 2011.
The theme of this year's World Hepatitis Day
was 'It's closer than you think.' With about one million people worldwide
dying due to hepatitis - and millions suffering immediate sickness or
developing chronic illness - the theme reflects the lurking dangers of the disease.
According to the WHO, worldwide around two billion people are infected with the Hepatitis B virus and 6,00,000 die each year due to its consequences. In India, approximately
80 million people harbour the hepatitis B virus, which results in around
2,40,000 deaths annually due to complications from the disease.
Among the deadliest variants of hepatitis, which includes A, B, C, D and
E types, given its propensity for periodic outbreaks in India, hepatitis
B poses the greatest danger. Essentially an inflammation of the liver,
hepatitis is usually caused by a viral infection. hepatitis B leads to a
large number of deaths due to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Yet,
many of the fatalities caused by hepatitis B need not occur if every
child is given three doses of vaccines.
World Hepatitis Day 2011
World Hepatitis Day 2011 was observed on Thursday, the
28th July 2011. July 28 also marks Professor Baruch Blumbergís birthday, winner of the
1976 Nobel Prize for his discovery of the virus that causes Hepatitis B.
This is the first year that World Hepatitis Day is celebrated as a result of the World Health Organizationís (WHO) Resolution on Viral
Hepatitis on 21 May, 2010. The WHO Resolution also expresses concern
about the lack of progress in the prevention, control, and treatment of viral hepatitis around the world.
On World Hepatitis Day 2011, a group of leading experts in viral hepatitis is urging
governments and the public across Asia Pacific to increase awareness of
the disease. The group, known as CEVHAP (Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in
Asia Pacific), was recently formed to address the lack of awareness and
political will to tackle issues associated with viral hepatitis. Viral hepatitis, particularly Hepatitis B and C, affects one in 12
people worldwide, claiming the lives of approximately one million people
every year. Asia Pacific carries the major part of the global burden of viral hepatitis.
India and China together have an estimated 123 million people
chronically infected with Hepatitis B and 59 million people chronically
infected with Hepatitis C, accounting for almost 50 percent of all infections worldwide.
Viral hepatitis is a life-threatening disease, a situation made worse by the fact that a large proportion of those infected do not know that they carry the virus.
While chronic hepatitis is a silent disease with little or no symptoms for many years, it is also a silent disease when it comes to public awareness and government attention.
Initial features are of nonspecific flu-like symptoms, common to almost
all acute viral infections and may include malaise , muscle
and joint aches , fever , nausea or vomiting , diarrhea
, and headache . More specific symptoms, which can be present in acute hepatitis from any cause, are: profound loss of
appetite, a dark urine, yellowing of the eyes and skin (i.e., jaundice
) and abdominal discomfort. Physical findings are usually minimal, apart
from jaundice in a third and tender hepatomegaly (swelling of the liver) in about 10%.
Chronic hepatitis often leads to nonspecific symptoms such as malaise,
tiredness and weakness, and often leads to no symptoms at all. The occurrence of jaundice indicates advanced liver damage. On
physical examination there may be enlargement of the liver.
A person initially infected with hepatitis B is said to have an 'acute'
infection. The immune mechanism of most patients successfully eliminates
the virus, curing them of hepatitis. An acute attack is usually brief
but can be transmitted to other people during the period that the virus
resides in the patient's body. Such people may exhibit no symptoms, or
may only display some symptoms, such as jaundice (yellowish skin and
eyes), dark yellowish urine, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and extreme
There are various categories of Hepatitis infections and these are Hepatitis A, B, C, D,
E, all caused by different things though primarily leading to liver inflammation.
Hepatitis B is the most common, and can be passed from mother to baby at
birth or in early childhood through contaminated injections or injected drug use.
HEP B is hundred times more infectious than HIV, mainly transmitted by exposure to an infected individual's blood, semen,
saliva,vaginal discharge or breast milk. Besides these, unsafe injection
practices pose the greatest threat in India, particularly from reuse of
infected needles. According to WHO statistics, around 12 to 16 billion
injections are administered each year globally. HEP B is also spread by infected
mothers to their babies during birth. Such transmissions to newborns can
be prevalent in areas where HEP B rates are high. Almost all infected
infants may develop chronic HEP B. The disease can also be transmitted via blood transfusions.
Hepatitis C is also spread through using unsterile needles and less
commonly through unsafe sex or sharing razors or toothbrushes.
The E virus, caught from infected water or food, is a common cause of
outbreaks of the disease in developing countries, said the World Health
Organization. Many of those carrying hepatitis are not aware they have it and can
unknowingly transmit it to others.
Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe
illness. * It is spread by faecal-oral (or stool to mouth) transmission when a person ingests food or drink contaminated by an infected person's stool.
The disease is closely associated with poor sanitation and a lack of personal hygiene habits, such as hand-washing.
Hepatitis C is also spread through using unsterile needles and less commonly through unsafe sex or sharing razors or toothbrushes.
The E virus, caught from infected water or food, is a common cause of outbreaks of the disease in developing countries, said the World Health
Organization. Many of those carrying hepatitis are not aware they have it and can unknowingly transmit it to others.
The patients who are unable to get rid of the virus, which causes 'chronic' infection that gradually damages the liver over the years and
generally lasts life-long. People with chronic HEP B could stay symptom-free for years or decades. Only when serious liver damage occurs
will there be signs of severe disease, such as cirrhosis or liver failure.
Some precautions to prevent the spread of HEP B from infected
Covering all cuts,
Not sharing razors, toothbrushes, earrings, etc.,
Always using condoms during sex, Vaccinating babies born to infected women within 12 hours of birth.
Having all family members tested for HEP B and administered the HEP B vaccine, which ensures protection for life.
Global action to tackle the Hepatitis
Medical experts are calling for global action to tackle the viruses that
cause the liver disease hepatitis. The first worldwide estimates in drug users show 10 million have
hepatitis C while 1.3 million have hepatitis B. Writing in the Lancet, experts say only a fraction of those who could
benefit are receiving antiviral drugs.
Only one in five infants around the world are vaccinated against
hepatitis B at birth, they say. The figures, published in the Lancet, show about 67% of injecting drug
users in the world have been exposed to hepatitis C, while around 10% have come into contact with hepatitis B.