Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Dec 30:
With around 12 million people chronically infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), India faces a “silent epidemic” spectre as the infected people remained unaware of their chronic carrier status infecting others for decades, one of the country’s foremost gastroenterologists said here.
The Hepatitis C virus, which claims around 5,00,000 lives in India annually, causes liver failure, chronic liver diseases and cancer, Dr Subrat Kumar Acharya, Professor and Head of the department of gastroenterology at AIIMS, New Delhi, said at a seminar on Hepatitis C virus on Sunday.
“Following initial infection, approximately 80 per cent of the people do not exhibit any symptoms while the acutely symptomatic may suffer from fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and jaundice,” he said.
The seminar was organized jointly by the IMS and Sum Hospital and Kalinga Gastro Foundation to mark the first meeting of the International Coalition of Hepatology Education Providers (IC-HEP) in Odisha. The IC-HEP aimed at providing healthcare providers with the most current information and clinically meaningful education on hepatitis with special focus on chronic Hepatitis C.
Dr Acharya said that 130 to 150 million people worldwide had chronic HCV infection a significant number of whom develop liver cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer subsequently.
HCV infection, he said, could be diagnosed with a simple blood test for anti HCV antibody and subsequently a nucleic acid test for HCV RNA was needed to confirm chronic HCV infection.
Pointing out that currently there was no vaccine for Hepatitis C due to the variability of the virus, multiple types and subtypes and rapid emergence of quasi-species, Dr. Acharya said antiviral medicines did cure HCV infection while reducing the development of liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Dr Manoj Sahu, Head of the department of gastroenterology at IMS and Sum Hospital, said the HCV infection could be prevented if the people understood the risk of the transmission. The infection could be treated with effective medicine to prevent the transmission, he said.
The risk factors for transmission of this virus were through drug use, unsafe injection practices, blood transfusion from unscreened donors, the sexual route, perinatal exposure from infected mother to the newborn and health care exposure in the hospital, he said.
Young hepatologists presented their research papers at the seminar. Dr SP Singh, Professor and Head of the department of gastroenterology at the SCB Medical College Hospital at Cuttack and organizing chairman of the meeting, Dr SK Kar, Director, Regional Medical Research Centre of the ICMR and Dr A Panda, former head of the department of Gastrointestinal surgery at SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack chaired the sessions.
Gastroenterologists, hepatologists, physicians, surgeons, pediatricians, gynaecologists, pathologists and radiologists from different parts of the state attended the meeting.