| GEO Health|
| World Hepatitis Day today|
| Updated at: 1111 PST, Wednesday, May 19, 2010|
LAHORE: World Hepatitis Day, to be observed on May 19 (today) aims at raising awareness about hepatitis B and hepatitis C and encourages prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Approximately 170 million people worldwide have either hepatitis B or hepatitis C. If left untreated and unmanaged, hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver scarring (cirrhosis) and other complications including liver cancer or liver failure. Every year 1.5 million people die of either hepatitis B or C.
Together hepatitis B and C represent one of the major threats to global health. Hepatitis B and C are both ‘silent’ viruses and, because many people feel no symptoms, you could be infected for years without knowing it. If left untreated, both the hepatitis viruses can lead to liver scarring (cirrhosis). If you have liver cirrhosis, you have a risk of life-threatening complications such as bleeding, ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity), coma, liver cancer, liver failure and death. In case of chronic hepatitis B, liver cancer might even appear before you have developed cirrhosis.
If you think you have been at risk, it is important that you get tested as soon as possible and, if diagnosed, consider your treatment options and self-management strategies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognises that hepatitis B is one of the major diseases affecting mankind today. At least 500,000 to 700,000 people die every year of hepatitis B. The hepatitis B virus is highly infectious and about 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. In nine out of 10 adults, acute hepatitis B infection will go away on its own in the first six months. However, if the virus becomes chronic, it may cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer after up to 40 years, but in some cases as little as five years after diagnosis.
The hepatitis B virus can be found in all major body fluids of infected people, including blood, semen, sweat, tears and even breast milk. Although not all people have signs of the virus, those w ho have may experience the following symptoms: Flu-like symptoms, Fatigue, Nausea, Jaundice (yellowing of the skin), Stomach ache, Diarrhoea/dark urine/bright stools and Aching joints. Unlike hepatitis C, there is a vaccine that can prevent infection. If you think you are at risk, you should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Hepatitis C is different from hepatitis B in that the virus more frequently stays in the body for longer than six months and becomes chronic. Four out of five people develop a chronic infection, which may cause cirrhosis and liver cancer after 15-30 years. There are approximately 170 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C worldwide.
In 2000, the WHO estimated that between three and four million people are newly infected every year. Hepatitis C, mainly, spreads through blood-to-blood contact.
Normally, hepatitis B symptoms are: flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, aching muscles and joints, anxiety and depression, poor concentration, stomach ache, loss of appetite and dark urine/bright stools.Get screened for the two silent viruses to ensure a hepatitis-free Pakistan.
On the eve of World Hepatitis Day (May 19), workshops and seminars will be held all day long in various teaching hospitals and public forums to educate people about the infection and ways to prevent it.
President (elect) Pakistan Society of Hepatology and President Rawalians Research Forum Professor Dr. Mohammad Umar said that in Pakistan, the prevalence of hepatitis B is about 3% and hepatitis C is 4-5%, which makes more than 1.2 million people vulnerable to hepatitis B or C virus.
“The group of viruses if not diagnosed and treated timely can result in liver, variceal bleeding, ascities and liver cancer,” he said.
He added that according to a study conducted by him, every fourth patient coming to allied hospitals in the town has been admitted with liver disease due to hepatitis B or C complications. “It is the second most common cause of death after cardiovascular disease.”