On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day on Thursday, doctors feel that a concerted awareness campaign is required to combat Hepatitis C and related liver diseases, which kill over 5,00,000 people globally every year.
The Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) has launched major campaign to create awareness about the disease. Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. It is primarily caused by blood transfusions with unscreened blood, surgical procedures that follow unsafe practices and the use of unsterile needles by intravenous drug users. Secondary causes include sharing personal care items, like toothbrushes and razors, with a person infected with the virus. It may also get transmitted through unprotected sex though on rare occasions.
Dr Asokananda Konar, well-known gastroenterologist and hepatologist, said: “In West Bengal, Hepatitis B and C were common; but Hepatitis C was emerging as a major threat. Blood transfusion is the biggest cause of transmission in the state. In some remote rural areas, unsterilized syringes are the main cause for spreading the disease.”
Konar said that despite of medicines and treatment, it was absolutely necessary to create awareness about the disease and screen people for the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Instead of addressing the entire population, special sections – such those addicted to alcohol, drug users, people with fatty liver disease, dental patients and those suffering from HIV/AIDS – should be screened.
“Those who are detected with HCV should ask their family members to get screened,” he said, adding that drugs in the form of tablets have minimum side effects and are relatively inexpensive. Early detection helps to treat the patient better, he maintained.
Hepatitis C has the potential to cause liver cancer, if the liver is affected for a long time. It is a silent disease, as the virus does not show any clear symptoms, making it difficult to detect.