July 28 was World Hepatitis Day 2013, and it is time we woke up to the fact the Hepatitis is as much a danger as HIV. Hepatitis is a largely overlooked disease, we need to create awareness amongst people, to make them understand that it is as important to weed out hepatitis as it was to wipe out polio or to spread awareness about HIV.
Here are a few things you might not know about Hepatitis:
Get tested if you have had a blood transfusion: Blood transfusion can transmit hepatitis C. If you have had a blood transfusion before the year 2002, get yourself tested for the condition. This is because, blood banks all over India started testing blood for the presence of Hepatitis C only after 2002. That being said, anyone who was transfused before that should get tested immediately.
Pregnant mothers beware: If you are pregnant or are planning to conceive anytime soon, get tested for hepatitis. This is because the virus that causes Hepatitis B can be transmitted from mother to child. A number of mothers in India are unaware that they should get tested. Some don’t even know they have contracted the condition and unknowingly pass it on to their babies. If a mother is found to have hepatitis B she and her child can be treated. The earlier the better. Babies can be saved from the infection if they are given the vaccine right after birth. In most cases it becomes difficult to save the baby if he/she is not treated immediately. Those who have hepatitis are at great risk of liver cancer and liver disease.
Don’t wait for the symptoms: By the time any symptoms manifest, it is usually too late to do anything. A person must get tested early on, or on a regular basis if they are at risk of contracting the disease. If hepatitis is detected early, it can be treated and managed well. People can live full lives. Hepatitis progress to cause irreparable damage to the liver, leading to liver cirrhosis and cancer. So don’t wait, prevention is always better than cure.
Be aware of the types: There are four types of hepatitis. Hepatitis A is commonly called jaundice. Caused due to a food borne virus, it leads to excess bile secretion, and malfunctioning of the liver. In most cases patients make a full recovery. Common symptoms include yellowing of eyes and skin, pale coloured stools, fatigue and in some cases vomiting. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that is spread through blood or body fluids. Either by having unprotected sex or sharing infected needles etc. It infects the liver, and its symptoms do not manifest in most people. This type can be transmitted from mother to child. Hepatitis C is a type that can be spread through blood and rarely through bodily fluids. It infects the liver and in most cases the symptoms do not show up until the liver is beyond repair. Symptoms are usually vague and commonly misdiagnosed. Hepatitis D is a mutated form of the virus causing other forms of hepatitis. It has been recognised by the WHO (World Health Organisation) as the hepatitis delta virus. It is transmitted through infected blood, blood products and unprotected sexual contact. People with Hepatitis B are at the greater risk of contracting this type of hepatitis.
Get vaccinated: There are vaccines for hepatitis A and B, but not for C. One can get the vaccine at any age, and it is freely available for administration in both government and private hospitals and clinics. Talk to your local physician about getting vaccinated.