Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Catching and stopping the silent killer Hepatitis B's slow moves

Despite of the fact that there is a vaccine to prevent Hepatitis B, approximately 2,40,000 people die in India because of the disease. A silent killer, Hepatitis B is more infectious than HIV and is the cause for liver cirrhosis, liver failure and has been linked to the development of hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer). The general perception is that HIV virus is very infectious and contagious. However Hepatitis B Virus is much more infectious than HIV. In fact, HBV is about 10 times more prevalent than HIV infection worldwide!

Hepatitis B is an infectious inflammatory condition of the liver caused due to Hepatitis B virus that spreads through exposure to infectious blood, vaginal fluid, and semen. Thus the possible modes of transmission are sexual contact, transfusion of infected blood/ blood products, use of contaminated needles or syringes, and from a mother to her child during child birth.

In order to understand the disease's intensity in various cities of India, a study was conducted on 24,225 samples in 2012. The samples were from the cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. Of these tested samples, 3373 (14%) samples were found positive for Hepatitis B. Maximum positive samples for Hepatitis B belonged to the age group of 20 to 40 years [13,884 (48%) positive samples].

Hepatitis is a silent killer, and may go undiagnosed for years together. Most of the people who are infected (almost two-thirds) are unaware of their infection and this has resulted in the silent HBV infection becoming one of the biggest threat to the health of the world.

Since the younger age group is a sexually active group, and given the fact that Hepatitis B is a silent disease, chances of the infection spreading are high. The disease can remain undiagnosed for years together, until the associated symptoms get pronounced.

Vaccination against Hepatitis B is extremely safe and the most effective way to prevent it. Prevention measures for this disease are the same as that of HIV/AIDS.

If not properly monitored or treated HBV infection can kill 25% of the infected people due to liver cancer or liver failure from cirrhosis. HBV along with HCV is a dangerous condition and this combined infection has infected 530 million of the 6 billion people worldwide.

Though there are surgeries to deal with it, early diagnosis and treatment with alternative medicine is the only way to prevent further damage caused by Hepatitis B to the liver, or development of complications like liver cancer.


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