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Year : 2006  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 11-13
Hepatitis B Eradication Day: It's never too late!!


Department of Gastroenterology, SCB Medical College, Cuttack 753007, Orissa, India

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How to cite this article:
Singh SP. Hepatitis B Eradication Day: It's never too late!!. Hep B Annual 2006;3:11-3

How to cite this URL:
Singh SP. Hepatitis B Eradication Day: It's never too late!!. Hep B Annual [serial online] 2006 [cited 2019 Jul 18];3:11-3. Available from: http://www.hepatitisbannual.org/text.asp?2006/3/1/11/32770


Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is probably the most important chronic viral infection affecting humans and HBV is a leading killer among all infectious agents. Approximately 400 million people are chronic HBV carriers worldwide. HBV infection and its complications are global health problems. The spectrum of chronic HBV infection ranges from asymptomatic hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) carrier state to chronic hepatitis with progression to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. Despite the development of an effective vaccine against HBV, this infection remains a serious threat to public health in India due to lack of public awareness and government apathy to control the infection. Several studies from India have reported a HBV prevalence rate of 3% to 6%. However, these data are known to underestimate the prevalence of chronic HBV Infection. India has a population of approximately 1000 million today, and assuming a lower prevalence rate of 3%, India still harbours approximately 30 million HBV carriers. A modest estimate would put the number of deaths occurring due to HBV infection per year in India to around 100,000. HBV is responsible for about 68% of cirrhosis of the liver, and 80% of hepatocellular carcinoma in India. Inspite of the fact that HBV is a major killer in India, and this is easily preventable, it's a shame how this killer is allowed to perpetrate genocide. Interestingly, although, a decision-analytical model estimates that in India, vaccination should save 25 lives per 100,000 population per year, hepatitis B immunization is not yet available freely to infants and children as part of the state sponsored immunization program. How long can this be allowed despite the tremendous strides made in the field of HBV transmission and prevention?

Control of Hepatitis B infection by vaccination is now within our grasp, and elimination of HBV infection has consequences far beyond the prevention of acute disease. Hence, it is very unfortunate that very little is being done in India to contain this continuing carnage. Compare this with the AIDS scenario and the contrast is striking. Diagnosis of a few cases of AIDS is sufficient to make headlines in this part of the world while thousands of patients with severe liver disease due to this viral infection languish and die without a squeak. Special cells have been set up in different parts of the country to monitor and check AIDS and regular workshops are organized with funds flowing in abundance to take care of these activities. Often 'bloated' figures of HIV seroprevalence are floated to create panic. Although AIDS deserves attention, Hepatitis B cannot be ignored.

Hepatitis B and its sequelae occur predominantly in young people to pose a high and avoidable economic burden on society and a pathetic waste of precious human capital. Unfortunately, the vast majority of researchers and healthcare professionals working in this area are mostly busy computing the prevalence of different viral markers in different subset of patients and treating the affluent minority inflicted with this infection. The vast majority cannot afford the costly medical treatment and neither does the State fund the treatment of the poor who are afflicted with this infection. Thus, despite all the advances made in serodiagnosis, vaccines and treatment of HBV infection, a large proportion of population are deprived of the benefits of these advances - partly due to the high costs involved, but also to a large extent due to a lack of commitment on the part of the health delivery system which not only includes the government health care machinery but also the doctors. Doctors have failed to motivate the government to evolve steps to contain the killer at large. The medical community has done little to use the media to educate the public about the silent killers other than "HIV" which are lurking around in the dark. The hapless victims continue to remain ill informed and ill prepared to defend themselves.

It's time we act and take appropriate measures to remove the darkness by generating public awareness about different aspects of the disease including the preventive aspects and arrest the killer by evolving and adopting the optimum strategies for preventing viral hepatitis B. We must enlighten and persuade the government convincingly about the magnitude of the problem of viral hepatitis B and the need to include hepatitis B vaccination in India's immunization program straightaway as per WHO recommendations. In the United States, where the prevalence of HBV infection is only a trickle compared to India and other developing countries, the Americans instead of being complacent, continue to take active steps to eradicate the infection at different levels. These include public awareness programs and legislations enacted by the states to promote hepatitis B vaccination, and these have paid dividends; they have successfully brought down the incidence of acute hepatitis B by 89% in a single decade. After successfully targeting the children/adolescents, they are now targeting susceptible adults too.

The steps taken by the Kalinga Gastroenterology Foundation in this regard are laudatory. The Kalinga Gastroenterology Foundation [KGF] has been observing Hepatitis B Eradication Day every year on 28 July [since 2001], the birthday of Nobel Laureate Prof BS Blumberg who discovered the Hepatitis B Virus and developed the first vaccine against Hepatitis B. The two apex bodies in the field of Gastroenterology and Liver diseases in India, the Indian Society of Gastroenterology [ISG] & Indian National Association for Study of the Liver [INASL] have also come together and have been observing HEPATITIS B ERADICATION DAY on 28th July. This has boosted the campaign to educate the public about Hepatitis B and to spread the message of the necessity of vaccination for Hepatitis B to eradicate the killer infection. Come Join the War against Hepatitis B. Different organizations and world bodies have been observing different "days" like 'World Kidney Day', 'World Epilepsy Day' and 'World Diabetes Day' to generate awareness about these important health issues in order to fight different diseases and ailments effectively in time. To generate greater awareness amongst the masses and to give the Hepatitis B Eradication Movement a much-needed boost, Hepatitis B too definitely deserves a day dedicated to this cause. Gastroenterologists, hepatologists and pediatricians all over the world are exhorted to come together and join this fight against Hepatitis B viral infection; come join us and prevail upon others to observe 28th July as HEPATITIS B ERADICATION DAY. It is never too late!!

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Correspondence Address:
Shivaram Prasad Singh
Department of Gastroenterology, SCB Medical College, Cuttack 753007, Orissa
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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