WHO Report Highlights Urgent Need to Combat Viral Hepatitis in India

WHO Report Highlights Urgent Need to Combat Viral Hepatitis in India

WHO Report Highlights Urgent Need to Combat Viral Hepatitis in India

The recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO) has brought alarming news regarding the widespread threat of viral Hepatitis, a condition causing liver inflammation and potentially leading to liver cancer. According to the Global Health Report 2024, released on Tuesday, thousands of lives are lost daily due to Hepatitis worldwide, with India being particularly vulnerable to this grave health risk. Shockingly, an estimated 2.9 crore individuals are living with Hepatitis B infection, while 0.55 crore are affected by Hepatitis C. This data underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies and interventions to combat Hepatitis and safeguard public health globally.

According to the report, Hepatitis ranks as the second leading infectious disease worldwide, claiming the lives of 1.3 million people in a year, a figure on par with tuberculosis, another formidable infectious killer. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed deep concern, stating, “This report paints a troubling picture.” He further added that despite advancements in global efforts to prevent Hepatitis infections, fatalities continue to rise due to insufficient diagnosis and treatment of individuals affected by the disease. This highlights the pressing need for enhanced strategies to identify and treat Hepatitis cases to mitigate its devastating impact on public health.

According to the report, India recorded 50,000 new cases of Hepatitis B and 1.4 lakh cases of Hepatitis C in the year 2022, with a staggering 1.23 lakh deaths attributed to these infectious diseases. Despite the availability of a vaccine for Hepatitis B, which renders the disease preventable and curable, fatalities persist, underscoring the crucial need for increased vaccination coverage and public awareness campaigns. Conversely, Hepatitis C can be effectively treated with medication.

Both types of Hepatitis can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth, through contact with the blood of an infected person, or via contaminated needles. Dr. SK Sarin, the Vice Chancellor of Delhi-based Liver and Biliary Science, emphasizes the critical importance of reducing the Hepatitis burden in India by ensuring universal vaccination of all infants with the anti-hepatitis vaccine. Additionally, he says that the need for vaccinating adults who missed out on vaccination during childhood to effectively combat the spread of the disease and safeguard public health.

In India, the key to surviving Hepatitis lies in timely diagnosis and effective treatment. However, only a small fraction of individuals affected by Hepatitis receive proper diagnosis and treatment. Despite the persistently high death rate from tuberculosis in our country, there is an urgent need to raise awareness and allocate resources for addressing both diseases effectively. Increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection, access to healthcare services, and available treatment options is crucial in reducing the mortality rates associated with Hepatitis and tuberculosis in India.

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