Dr. Ramya Raghavan
How many of us know that viral Hepatitis is killing nearly 1.4 million people globally every year? And that worldwide, nearly 300 million people live with viral Hepatitis unaware? And that it also causes two in every three liver cancer deaths? This is the reason why World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, attempts to increase global awareness on Hepatitis, its prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Almost 100 countries now recognize World Hepatitis Day each year through events such as demonstrations, concerts, talk shows, free screenings, poster campaigns, flash mobs and vaccination drives. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Hepatitis Alliance prepare and publish a report on the events held across the globe each year.
Hepatitis, it is important to know, is an inflammatory condition of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to liver fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. The disease is caused by a viral infection though there could be other causes of hepatitis. For instance, a condition described as autoimmune Hepatitis results from medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
Hepatitis B is an infectious Hepatitis caused by Hepatitis B virus (HBV). This infection can be both acute and chronic. Acute Hepatitis B is a newly acquired infection and individuals affected by the infection notice symptoms between 1 and 4 months after exposure to the virus. A small number of people can develop a life-threatening form of acute hepatitis called fulminant hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis B lasts longer than six months and is usually an infection that has to be dealt with in the longer-term.
Hepatitis B Transmission
The hepatitis B virus is a blood-borne virus. It is transmitted from person to person via blood or fluids contaminated with blood.
- Pain over the liver
- Dark urine
- Pale-colored stools
- Appetite loss
- Feeling tired
- Nausea and vomiting
- Itching all over the body
Hepatitis B infection is diagnosed based on the above symptoms and blood tests, which indicate abnormal liver function.
Acute Hepatitis B usually does not require medical treatment. But if symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea persist, more fluids and electrolytes have to be given to the patient. Experts say there is no medicine to prevent acute Hepatitis B from becoming chronic. If the symptoms last for longer period of time and if LFT is abnormal after 3 months, consult a gastroenterologist.
- Razor, toothbrush, fingernail clippers, should not be shared if they have blood on them.
- Think about health risks if you are planning to get a tattoo or body piercing. You can become infected if sterilized needles and equipment and disposable gloves are not used.
- Practice safe sex. Latex condoms have to be used when multiple partners are involved to prevent HBV transmission.
- If you inject drugs, don’t share needles or other equipment.
(Dr. Ramya Raghavan is Consultant Internal Medicine, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield.)