World Hepatitis day – Test.Treat.Hepatitis

Today is world Hepatitis Day . The theme is Test.Treat.Hepatitis.

325 million people are affected with Hepatitis B and C which is root cause for liver cancer leading to 1.3 million deaths every year. Hepatitis B can be prevented and C is treatable.

As with my blogs, I want to share a true story and this time the story is about myself.

I have been operating patients with Liver cancer and Hepatitis B for the past 3 decades. Like many others, I was under the false notion that I was immunized for Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B immunization is done on Day 1, Day 30 and after 6 months. I vaguely remembered that I was immunized on Day 1 and Day 30 but was not sure on the 6 months booster which unfortunately is the case with many of us.

One of my doctor colleagues was looking for a job in another Institution and fortunately that Institution insisted on Hepatitis B and C testing. To his utter shock and disbelief he was tested positive for Hepatitis C, which must have been contracted from a patient. Fortunately there are drugs for treating Hepatitis C and also new drugs that reduces the treatment to just 3 months. He was cured completely from Hepatitis C and could join the job.

Then I thought, why not get tested for Hepatitis B & C and to my utter disbelief found that I had NO antibodies for Hepatitis B. In other words, I was at high risk for contracting the disease. This was because of inadequate immunization. So I was operating patient with Hepatitis B taking due precautions but I could have contracted Hepatitis B and C. There is effective immunization for Hepatitis B. I immediately took immunization again and now have adequate antibody titre.

This certainly is relevant and I urge my medical colleagues and friends to get tested for B and C. We do not know when get exposed. Hepatitis is a silent disease which goes on for a long time and can lead to cirrhosis or fibrosis of liver and then later  liver cancer.. This can be easily prevented.

In the US, the CDC has given directive that those born in the 50s and 60s are not immunized for Hepatitis B, as the vaccines were not part of the universal immunization programme as per today’s guidelines.  This is also  true for us.

Yes, we have risk of getting exposed. Hepatitis B spreads with body fluids, could be in hospitals, dentists, tattooing or unsafe use of injections. All this can be prevented. India has only constituted committees ( WHO infographic). This is the time for action and not just forming committees. Apart from the guidelines, WHO makes it amply clear that we can eliminate Hepatitis by 2030 . My own example is more than enough for anyone to be tested immediately.

If you do not remember that you are immunized, you can get immunized for Hepatitis B. This is partly true of those families who have patients diagnosed with Hepatitis B. Hepatitis C has no vaccine at this point of time but has good treatment.

Elimination of hepatitis reduces risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis. Saves lives.

Here’s an appeal by Dr. Tredos Adhanom Chebreyesus, Director General of WHO that calls for immediate action.

“World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to highlight one of the world’s most pressing public health issues. Globally, viral Hepatits B and C affect 325 million but only 1in 10 of those people have been tested and only one in 5 have received appropriate treatment. Viral Hepatitis slowly and silently degrades a person’s health leading to liver cancer and cirrhosis which results in 1.3 million deaths every year. The good news is that we have new medicines that can cure Hepatitis C in 3 months or less. WHO’s new recommendations call for treating everybody with Hepatitis C aged 12 years or older with these new drugs. That’s about 70 million people. While testing and treatment are key to eliminating Hepatitis, we also need strong focus on prevention. We have a clear vision for elimination and we have the tools to do but we must accelerate our goal of eliminating Hepatitis by 2030.”

 

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