HEPATITIS CAN’T WAIT | Prasuna Thapa: According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, a person dies from hepatitis-related illness every 30 seconds even in this pandemic situation of COVID-19. Also, 325 million people globally live with a hepatitis infection with reference to World Health Organization fact sheet. A recent study by Gupta Birendra Prasad et al. discovered widespread Hepatitis E virus circulation in Kathmandu, Nepal, indicating that the region is endemic for hepatitis virus infection. This implies an alarming situation of Hepatitis not only in Nepal, but also around the world. The inflammation of the liver (vital organ that aids in the digestion of nutrients, blood filtering, and infection fighting) is termed as Hepatitis. The liver loses most of its function when it is harmed. Hepatitis is commonly caused by viruses, such as the Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses, which are collectively known as Viral Hepatitis. Every year on July 28, World Hepatitis Day brings the world together to raise awareness of the worldwide burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. In 2021 the theme is ‘Hepatitis Can’t Wait’.
All hepatitis viruses differ significantly in terms of mode of transmission, severity of disease and preventive measures. Hepatitis A and E is transmitted when a person consumes food or drinks, contaminated with feces from an infected person even in microscopic amounts. People may also get hepatitis E by eating under cooked meat products such as pork. In the same way people practicing anal sex, travelers, etc. are also at risk of Hepatitis A and E. They usually cause acute (short-term) infections. Alcohol aids in the disease progression. On the other hand, Hepatitis B, C, and D are transmitted by blood from infected individual. Hepatitis B and D can also be transmitted by bodily fluids. This can happen in a variety of ways, such as sharing drug needles or engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse with infected person or from infected mother to her child. These viruses can cause both acute and chronic infections. Chronic hepatitis develops when the body is unable to fight off the hepatitis virus and the infection persists. Cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer are the complications of it.
People suffering from hepatitis have minor or no symptoms. If symptoms occur with an acute infection, they can appear anytime from 2 weeks to 6 months after exposure. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take decades to develop. Fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and jaundice are symptoms of hepatitis A, B, and C. The virus can also induce a chronic liver infection, which can lead to cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver cancer in some cases. Even death can occur in these cases. Only those who have already been infected with hepatitis B virus develop hepatitis D virus. Dual infection of these two viruses results in a more serious health effects, including a faster progression to liver cirrhosis. Hepatitis E occurs with a low fever, decreased appetite, nausea, and vomiting that lasts a few days. Some people have abdominal pain, itching, a skin rash, or joint pain. They may also show signs of jaundice, such as dark urine and pale stool, as well as a slightly enlarged, tender liver (hepatomegaly) or, in rare cases, acute liver failure.
With the different forms of Hepatitis strains, their treatment is also different. Treatment of Hepatitis A and E includes resting, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy foods to help relieve symptoms. If symptoms persist for longer than 6 months, it is must to visit doctor. There is no medication available for acute Hepatitis B, and it is best treated with supportive care. Chronic Hepatitis B and C can be treated with antiviral medications and regular monitoring for indicators of liver disease development. Hepatitis D can be treated with Interferons.
Hepatitis must be prevented before the disease initiate. Here, the priority should be given to vaccination at first since vaccines for Hepatitis A and B are available all around the world. In Nepal these vaccines are included in National Immunization Schedule. This act should be encouraged and continued. This can be supported with capacity building. Likely, acting on risk factors can prevent people from being affected by Hepatitis such as practicing safe sex, not sharing syringes or using infected needles, practicing appropriate personal hygiene along with not utilizing an infected person’s belongings. Similarly, taking caution while getting tattoos/piercings, checking blood samples prior to blood transfusion, and taking precautions when traveling can act as a barrier to Hepatitis. Early detection and diagnosis should also be focused. Awareness programs regarding hepatitis through various Medias, campaigns, and programs are important. It is also necessary for parents and teachers to educate their children, students on the importance of safe sexual practices.
HEPATITIS CAN’T WAIT | Prasuna Thapa | World Hepatitis Day
“He who cures the disease may be skill fullest but he who prevents it is the safest physician”. At the present time, public health professionals play a critical role in combating viral hepatitis. They must promote safe sex, encourage blood testing prior to transfusion, and encourage people to seek early diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis. They should provide health education on Hepatitis, its transmission and prevention. They should also promote healthy habits, consuming nutritious diet accompanied by physical activity. Additionally, they can plan and advocate for better solutions to protect people from being infected with hepatitis and put forward the ideas to the concerned authorities. Today, people who are infected with viral hepatitis can’t wait for testing and lifesaving therapies. They can’t wait for stigma and discrimination to end. Pregnant mothers can’t afford to wait for hepatitis screening and treatment. Newborns can’t wait for the birth dose vaccine. Decision makers can’t wait and must act now to make hepatitis elimination a reality through political will and funding. All this is because “HEPATITIS CAN’T WAIT” and death is uncertain.
About Author of HEPATITIS CAN’T WAIT
- ✍️ Miss -Prasuna Thapa
- Bachelor in Public Health , NIHS
- Recommended Citation :Thapa, P., 2021. HEPATITIS CAN’T WAIT | Prasuna Thapa[online] Nepal Health Magazine. Available at: <https://nepalhealthmag.com/hepatitis-cant-wait-prasuna-thapa-world-hepatitis-day/> [Accessed July 28 2021]
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