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The biggest health problem in the world?

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On World Hepatitis Day, the Hindu reports scary facts:

Around 40 million people in India are infected with Hepatitis B and the risk of its transmission is hundred times more than that of the dreaded HIV, a gastroenterologist said here Tuesday.

“In our country it has been seen that there are around 40 million patients with Hepatitis B as compared to 2.5 million people with AIDS. Hepatitis B virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV,” said Mahesh Goenka, director of Institute of Gastroenterology at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital.

Globe and Mail reported:

One in 12 people worldwide are living with hepatitis B or C. This, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says, translates to four million people living with the virus in South Africa. Of these, 18 000 die every year. Doctors see it as a silent killer because few people have any outward symptoms before they develop life-threatening complications.

With hepatitis having a greater prevalence than HIV/Aids, the WHO has named July 28 as World Hepatitis Day. The theme for this year is, “This is Hepatitis … Know it. Confront it. Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere.”

Hepatitis, the name for the family of viral diseases which affect the liver, comes from many different sources depending on the strain. B and C, which are the WHO’s main focus as they are the most deadly strains, are caught through contact with infected body fluids. If left untreated hepatitis leads to cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and liver cancer. At this late stage the only hope for a patient is a liver transplant.

WHO guidelines for prevention say it is important not to share razors, needles, toothbrushes and unsterilised medical equipment. Spearman said lifestyle changes were also important. Heavy drinking, smoking and the consumption of fatty foods put extra strain on the liver and left it vulnerable.

If this is indeed the world’s biggest health problem, then we should hear more about it. This is what NIH (USA) says:

Hepatitis is swelling and inflammation of the liver. It is not a condition, but is often used to refer to a viral infection of the liver.

Hepatitis may start and get better quickly (acute hepatitis), or cause long-term disease (chronic hepatitis). In some instances, it may lead to liver damage, liver failure, or even liver cancer.

How severe hepatitis is depends on many factors, including the cause of the liver damage and any illnesses you have. Hepatitis A, for example, is usually short-term and does not lead to chronic liver problems.

The symptoms of hepatitis include: abdominal pain or distention, breast development in males, dark urine and pale or clay-colored stools, fatigue, fever (usually low-grade), general itching, jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes), loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weight loss.

Many people with hepatitis B or C do not have symptoms when they are first infected. They can still develop liver failure later. If you have any risk factors for either type of hepatitis, you should be tested regularly.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

July 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm

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