Hepatitis, it’s closer than you think: WHO

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‘It’s closer than you think’. The message the WHO has chosen on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day which falls on Saturday, is loud and clear.

The premier health body emphatically states that one out of every 12 people in the world is carrying the disease and most of the cases reported fall in the dangerous categories of B and C.

It would be foolish to ignore the threat of hepatitis, said the WHO which says that 1.5 million people contract hepatitis A in a year while the total carriers of the virus would come to 150 million.

“Yet, awareness about the different strains of the virus and their impact on human health is low”, says Dr Charles Panackel, consultant gastroenterologist at Medical Trust Hospital, Kochi.

Containing the outbreak of hepatitis A and E assumes special significance now in the wake of the raids on hotels. “Both these strains spread through unhygienic food and water.

The government should strongly intervene to ensure hygiene which includes proper sanitation and other facilities”, says Dr Panackel.

He said that hepatitis E became prevalent in the state with the arrival of migrant labourers in large numbers who lived in un-hygienic conditions. These people too needed regular health check-ups, he said.

Dr Philip Augustine of Lakeshore Hospital said that two per cent of the country’s total population carries the hepatitis B virus, which bodes ill for the health of the nation. “When people try to go out of the country in search of jobs, this can become a problem as several countries don’t allow such people in”, he said.

Both A and B can be prevented through vaccine. B & C, which are transmitted through blood and body secretion, can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Safe sex, screening of blood products, saying no to re-used needles and syringes and also blades and razors used for shaving, can ward off B & C. Anti-viral medicines too are available for B & C. The strains A & E can be fatal in the case of one and 20 per cent respectively of the total people affected.

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