Saturday, Jan 29, 2022
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Health

Dire Strains

Viral hepatitis is spreading, with stealth and silence, yet few are aware of it

Dire Strains
Dire Strains
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

When a neighbour’s child died from a hepatitis C infection three years ago, some sixth sense told Poonam Khanna of Delhi to get her 12-year-old son Udit tested. Udit tested positive for hepatitis C, a result of transfusion of blood not screened for the virus. Says Poonam: "There were no outward symptoms but the doctor warned us it was infectious and could lead to liver failure." She ensured that her then seven-year-old younger son was careful about contact with his brother while she herself wore gloves when administering Interferon injections to Udit.

The sixth sense, however, cannot work always when most in India today are still unaware that viral hepatitis is a silent disease, that can turn into a killer, which is creeping up insidiously. Compared nowadays with HIV characteristics, those affected can remain carriers for life exhibiting no symptoms, yet infecting others who may develop the disease in its full-blown form. And it is not contracted through contaminated water, food or unhygienic conditions alone. Today, some of its strains are transmitted in a way similar to HIV, through body fluids. Untreated chronic viral hepatitis ultimately leads to liver failure due to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Says Dr Anupam Sibal, paediatric gastroenterologist and hepatologist at Delhi’s Apollo Hospital: "We call it the hepatitis alphabet because of the strains ranging from A to G."

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