‘Hepatitis deadlier than COVID-19, kills 1.4 million yearly’

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Another key to preventing liver cancer is to get screened for hepatitis B. If you have not received your vaccine and you think you fall into a high-risk group, talk to your doctor about getting tested. Hepatitis affects millions of people across the world, causing both acute and chronic liver disease. Furthermore, it's said that an estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen-positive for at least 6 months) while about 2 million hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections occur yearly through unsafe injections. A pregnant mother with Hepatitis B may also pass on the disease to her child. Typically the virus spreads through feces of an infected person that contaminates the water or food source.

World Health Organization is issuing today 2 new recommendations: Pregnant women who test positive for hepatitis B infection and have a high level of HBV in the blood (known as HBV viral load) should receive preventive antiviral therapy with tenofovir from the 28th week of pregnancy until birth.

The Morrison Government has invested more than $1 billion to fund these new hepatitis C medicines through the PBS and by the end of 2019, approximately 85,000 people living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia had received DAA treatment.

We know that more than half of the population living with chronic hepatitis B, and who would benefit from treatment, are not now receiving treatment. It is as simple as that: "people need to know their hepatitis status if we are to make progress towards eliminating these diseases by 2030". Cancerous tumors are unsafe because they begin to damage healthy cells that make up the organ and impair the liver's functionality.

"Several hepatitis viruses are endemic in Pakistan including Hepatitis A, B, C and E. This is associated with significant morbidity as well as socioeconomic consequences". Covid-19 infection does cause liver inflammation, increases liver enzymes and can also cause liver dysfunction.

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The theme of this year's World Hepatitis Day (WHD) is "FIND THE MISSING MILLIONS", a clarion call for everyone to take action and raise awareness to find the ignorant multitudes, who are unaware of their hepatitis infection.

The most common symptoms of these viruses include loss of appetite, yellow discolouration of skin and eyes (jaundice), pale stools, dark urine, abdominal pain, joint pain, fatigue, sudden weight loss, nausea, fever, vomiting, etc. You can contract hepatitis through blood contact or sexual intercourse. The diagnosis usually involves a physical examination, liver function tests, and blood tests to determine the type and load of the virus in the body.

You can easily get involved with World Hepatitis Day.

A person should also not share his/her toothbrushes, razors or any hygiene-related products with others. Although vaccination for HCV is now unavailable, antiviral medicines can cure HCV infection.

"No infant should grow up only to die of hepatitis B because they were not vaccinated", said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. People with multiple sex partners who often engage in unprotected sex, males who have sex with males, people with pre-existing conditions such as kidney, liver disease or diabetics, the elderly or immune-compromised are at a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis B and C.

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