The theme for World Hepatitis Day, which was observed on Sunday, was ‘this is hepatitis. Know it. Confront it’. Ironically, a study conducted in the country’s four major cities, including Mumbai, by testing 24,225 blood samples of suspected hepatitis B cases, reveals that this awareness is grievously lacking, especially in the age group 30-40. Significantly, Mumbai recorded the highest number of positive samples, with 2,122 out of the total 5,149 suspected patients being diagnosed with the disease.
Fourteen per cent of the samples tested positive for hepatitis B in the 2012 study. It was observed as much as 48 per cent of the samples that tested positive for the disease were taken from people in the age group of 20 to 40 years. According to experts, this figure could indicate that the lack of awareness regarding hepatitis B vaccinations among this section of the population. The study was conducted by Metropolis Healthcare in the cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. While Mumbai topped the list, Chennai followed with 701 positive samples out of the 10,007 samples tested. Bangalore had the lowest number of positive samples, at 216 out of 3,325. Delhi had 334 positive samples out of the 2,371 tested.
“The percentage of hepatitis B samples that tested positive in our labs across the country is higher as most of them were taken from patients who are suspected to have hepatitis B or those who have been admitted to the hospital,” said Dr Sujata Dhanuka, vice president of Metropolis Healthcare.
“Some patients are told to undergo a Hepatitis B test as pre-operative testing while the other patients whose samples were studied had symptoms of the disease or were pregnant women. Thus it is not reflective of the general population,” added Dr Dhanuka.
“Several people are not vaccinated for this disease and though one reason is that this age group is more sexually active, another is vertical transmission from the mother to the infant. In many cases, one discovers that expectant women mothers are carrying the hepatitis B virus as it tends to go undiagnosed for years,” explained Dr Dhanuka.
2,122 - Mumbai recorded the highest number of positive samples, out of 5,149 suspected patients being diagnosed with Hepatitis B
Did you know?
Hepatitis B spreads through infectious blood, vaginal fluids and semen, much like AIDS. The possible modes of transmission other than mother to child are sexual contact, transfusion of infected blood and use of contaminated needles and syringes.The complications caused by hepatitis B are liver cirrhosis and other liver complications like scarring of the liver. Other symptoms include swelling of the feet, abdominal pain, fever, jaundice and dark urine.
Baliram Kadam (62), a Borivli resident, had tested positive for hepatitis B in 1996 after he met with a road accident. He was a regular blood donor before being diagnosed with the disease and was shocked to know he had tested positive.“Before donating blood, we would undergo tests and I never tested positive for the disease. However, before I met with the accident, I underwent teeth extractions where the dentist had not sterilised the equipment through which I suspect I contracted the disease.” While Kadam underwent intermittent treatment for hepatitis B, it was only in January this year that his symptoms worsened. Dr Aabha Nagral, gastroenterologist and specialist in liver disease at Jaslok hospital said, “We immediately put him on oral anti viral drugs as there was severe scarring of the liver and cirrhosis which could not be reversed. He would have needed a liver transplant but luckily, the oral anti-viral drugs helped improve his condition and he will have to continue with them.” She further added that earlier injectable anti-virals were used but now with the help of oral anti-virals, patients can be stabilised and do not require a transplant. “Out of 100 patients suffering from hepatitis B, around five to ten require treatment which is determined after thorough investigations,” she added.