The warning comes on World Hepatitis Day
While governments across the globe, particularly in South-East Asia, are intensifying their action plans to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030, gastroenterologists have called for equal attention to alcoholic hepatitis.
On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day (July 28), doctors have reiterated that public awareness of the different causes of liver inflammation is still low. In most cases, the liver infection lies dormant for years to manifest as a disease beyond cure.
In India, chronic viral hepatitis B is the most common cause of primary liver cancer. And, therefore, this year’s theme for the day — Can’t Wait — should educate people to get themselves tested for the viruses like they do for blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels.
But a major area of neglect is alcoholic hepatitis, says P.L Alagammal, Consultant Medical Gastroenterology, Meenakshi Mission Hospital & Research Centre. Based on her clinical experience, the incidence of viral hepatitis is less than alcohol-induced hepatiis to the ratio of 1:6.
Males between 35 to 45 years are affected severely as most of them pick up alcohol addiction in their 20s and do not realise what damage the toxin is doing to the liver, Dr. Alagammal said. The symptoms manifest at a very late stage causing cirrhosis.
Doctors advise people to get self-tested for viral hepatitis that can be transmitted through blood or unprotected sex. Hepatitis C is curable with early anti-viral therapy, while Hepatitis B with early intervention can be treated to avoid further complications and check the progression of cirrhosis and liver cancer, Dr. Alagammal adds
According to her, only those who come for annual master health check-up, pre-employment medical test or as part of hospital procedure for other surgeries get detected. Rest remain asymptomatic carriers. Today’s commemoration highlights the need to accelerate the hepatitis response with existing safe and effective vaccines that can prevent liver diseases.
WHO estimates 296 million people live with chronic hepatitis B and around 58 million live with chronic hepatitis C globally. In 2019, viral hepatitis caused 1.1 million deaths globally.
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