New Study Reveals Indian Population is the Carrier of Hepatitis B

The most common transmission route of Hepatitis in India is from mother to child. It has been said in a recent study that 3-5 % of Indian population is the carrier for Hepatitis B virus infection, the cause of viral hepatitis.

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Hepatitis A and E are the commonly transmitted hepatotropic viruses transmitted due to poor hygiene, contaminated food and drinking water, poor sanitation, Pixabay
  • Some common symptoms of Hepatitis are low-grade fever, body ache, lethargy, anorexia and joint pain
  • In Western countries, Hepatitis is increasingly recognized as a cause of chronic liver damage

New Delhi, July 28, 2017: Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by toxins, certain drugs, some diseases, heavy alcohol use, and bacterial and viral infections. Viral Hepatitis is a group of viral infections that affect the liver; the most common among these are Hepatitis A, B, C and E. Rarely other viruses like dengue, Chikungunya, herpes, and H1N1 can affect the liver. Although each can cause similar symptoms, they usually have different modes of transmission and can affect the liver differently.

Dr. Vinit Shah, Consultant Hepatologist, BGS Global Hospitals, low-grade fever, body ache, lethargy, anorexia and joint pain are some common symptoms. This is commonly called prodromal symptoms as it precedes the phase of liver attack by a period ranging from 1-2 weeks, mentioned ANI report.

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Hepatitis B virus infection is an extremely important cause of viral hepatitis, 3-5 % of Indian population is the carrier for hepatitis B infection, and some may be negative with virus damaging liver that is Occult hepatitis B and picking up viral DNA in blood or liver tissue. The most common route of virus transmission in India is from mother to a child.

Mostly there are chances that the virus can remain dormant in the body without any liver damage- asymptomatic carrier and is incidentally diagnosed during health checkups or pre operative checkups before any surgery. But, in some cases it can cause acute liver failure, chronic damage to the liver -chronic hepatitis, progression to chronic liver damage- cirrhosis or liver cancer –HCC in patients. The virus is known to have a tendency of suddenly returning to active multiplication from dormancy and causing severe liver damage (reactivation of hepatitis B).

The high-risk groups are- pregnant women, health care professionals, sex workers or prior to proposed organ transplantation or chemotherapy administration and screening of them is of paramount importance. Once a patient is diagnosed with hepatitis, he gets referred to a specialized liver care team, further investigations involve testing the replication state of virus and extent of the liver damage so that return of virus to active multiplication and worsening chronic liver damage, liver cancer development are not missed.

The preventive measures involves  vaccination of the high risk groups especially, screening pregnant ladies and managing their infection properly during pregnancy and breast feeding with appropriate oral medications, proper delivery of the baby with immediate dual vaccination (vaccine plus hepatitis B immunoglobulin) to the child, screening blood and immunological products, safe needle and syringe practices, active screening of family members of infected patients and vaccination of those who are negative. Treatment involves early identification of a subset of people with liver damage and treating with oral antiviral medications and regularly checking them.

Hepatitis C virus has same modes of transmission as hepatitis B and can similarly cause chronic liver damage, liver cirrhosis, decompensation or liver cancer. No vaccine is available for hepatitis C so identifying infected patients and aggressively treating them to achieve complete viral response (SVR) is the only way to prevent progression to liver cancer and decompensation. With an advent of anti-viral oral medications (DAA’s) treating, hepatitis C is very easy, cost effective and highly successful now. But this should be done as soon as hepatitis C patient is identified and then referring him/her to a liver specialist.

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Hepatitis A and E are the commonly transmitted hepatotropic viruses transmitted due to poor hygiene, contaminated food and drinking water, poor sanitation that may lead to fecal-oral transmission. Pediatric age group (0-16 yrs old) is at risk for hepatitis A infection, in some cases, liver damage may be very severe (acute liver failure) leading to loss of liver function requiring liver transplantation.

Hepatitis E virus infection also has a similar way of transmission and pregnant ladies constitute the high-risk group for this viral infection and it is the most common cause of the disease during pregnancy.

In Western countries, it is increasingly recognized as a cause of chronic liver damage especially in post solid organ transplant recipients and as a result of consumption of contaminated pork, which is regarded as an important source of transmission. Prevention is again by ensuring proper hygiene and sanitation and vaccination of higher risk groups is in the research stage.

– prepared by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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