On September 3, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Thailand became the first four countries in the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia region to have successfully controlled hepatitis B. The virus is said to be controlled when the disease prevalence is reduced to less than 1% among children less than five years of age.
- Despite the introduction of the hepatitis B vaccine in the Universal Immunization Programme in 2002 and scaling-up nationwide in 2011, about one million people in India become chronically infected with the virus every.
- Health Ministry estimate - As in February 2019, 40 million people in India were infected.
- This infection at a young age turns chronic, causing over 1,00,000 premature deaths annually from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer
- India has over 40 million hepatitis B (HBV) infected patients (second only to China) and constitutes about 15 percent of the entire pool of hepatitis B in the world.
- Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver.
- It imbalances the normal functioning of bile production, excretion of drugs and hormones, metabolism of fats, proteins, synthesis of proteins and enzymes activation.
- There are 5 types of hepatitis viz. A, B, C, D, and E. Each type is caused by a different hepatitis virus.
- Hepatitis B and C are the deadliest.
- Hepatitis viruses B, C and D spread by contact with contaminated blood or body fluids.
- Hepatitis A and E spread through unsafe food and drink.
- An infectious disease caused by an infection with the Hepatitis B virus.
- It is contracted through flat tired wounds, contact with blood, saliva, fluids of an infectious body.
- Sharing personal belongings such as razors or toothbrushes of an infected person would also cause Hepatitis B.
- Hepatitis B symptoms include abdominal pain, fatigue, and jaundice.
- Symptoms do not come to limelight until one to six months.
- It could be diagnosed through a common blood test.
- This Vaccine could be done for both adults and children.
- It comprises of three intramuscular vaccines.
- Second and third vaccines are provided after one and six months after the first vaccine.
Why is Hepatitis B so deadly?
- Mother–to–child transmission - It can spread unknowingly from a mother who is infected to a newborn child.
- Over 90% of new hepatitis B infections occur through mother-to-child transmission and during the early age of childhood.
- Silent killers - More than 80% of the infected aren’t aware of their infection as infections can remain asymptomatic for years, even decades, slowly damaging the liver.
Steps were taken by Government
- National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme - The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the program on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, 28th July 2018.
- Launching of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and giving importance to safe drinking water and WASH.
About National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme:
- Aim: The program aims at both prevention and treatment of hepatitis which is among the leading causes of liver cancer, cirrhosis of the liver and acute liver failure.
- Target: It aims to treat a minimum of 3 lakh hepatitis C cases over a period of three years for eliminating deadly conditions by 2030.
- The program is part of the National Health Mission. Under it, an expensive antiviral for hepatitis B and C infections will be made available free of cost at all government hospitals. · Treatment: It will set up and upgrade facilities for diagnosis and treatment primarily of hepatitis B and C. These designated treatment centers will provide free anti-viral to hepatitis C patients. They will also provide the hepatitis B vaccine to babies born to mothers carrying the virus within 24 hours of birth.
- Decentralization: The program also aims to build capacities at national, state, district levels, and sub-district levels up to Primary Health Centers (PHC) and health and wellness centers to scale programs till the lowest level of the healthcare facility in a phased manner.
What are the measures that need to be taken?
- National Hepatitis Policy – It will translate into better surveillance and detection of water and blood-borne hepatitis viral infections in various regions.
- Availability of safe and potable water, early screening, vaccination and prevention of misuse of disposable needles and syringes will help to eliminate treatable viral hepatitis.
- Easy availability of the newly discovered drugs at a reasonable price.
- Hepatitis B birth dose, given in the first 24 hours, helps prevent vertical transmission from the mother to child.
- There is also a need to increase awareness about the WHO recommendation that allows hepatitis B open-vial policy. Opened vials of this vaccine can be kept for a maximum duration of 28 days for use in other children if the vaccine meets certain conditions. So, bigger vials like 10 dose vials can be used in an interval of 28 days, thus increasing vaccine availability.