Hepatitis 2015 - the year of hope10 August 2017

The Hepatitis virus can be divided into 2 types- water borne and blood borne. The water borne viruses are Hepatitis A and E, they spread through contaminated water and food products. They cause acute hepatitis which manifests as jaundice. They can result in large epidemics. Acute Hepatitis is mostly a self- limiting disease, however it can rarely result in acute liver failure. The blood borne viruses are spread by blood and blood products. They can also spread through surgical procedures where sterilisation is not maintained. They can cause Acute Hepatitis, Chronic hepatitis (when the infection persists for more than 6 months), Cirrhosis (which can result in liver failure) and finally liver Cancer.

India has a high disease burden of both types of viruses. There are nearly 40 million carriers of Hepatitis B, 11 million of Hepatitis C. Hepatitis A and E are both endemic and epidemic due to poor hygiene.

Usually at this time of the year we are lamenting what little the government is doing to prevent the spread of the Hepatitis viruses. But this year appears to be different. There have been 3 major reasons to raise our hopes on this Hepatitis Day.

1. The Initiative by Prime Minister Modi on the overall hygiene in the #Swasthbharathabhiyan appears to be having a ripple down effect with a number of state governments taking it up as a priority. There is also an ongoing effort to control street food vendors. All this, if sustained, is likely to make an impact on the overall transmission of water and food borne diseases and should bring down their incidences.

2. It seems that the wait for the HEV vaccine would be over soon with the Chinese publishing the results of a large vaccine trial, probably the Indian vaccine may not be far behind.

3. The launch of new oral drugs for the treatment of Hepatitis C which have a very high efficacy in treating the virus. The drug initially launched in the US was very expensive but a subsidized version is now available in India at a considerably reduced price. A number of new drugs are expected in the coming 6 months which are likely to simplify treatment even further.