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WHO’s Global Hepatitis Report 2024 Highlights India’s Hepatitis Burden


The World Health Organisation (WHO) has spotlighted India in its recently released Global Hepatitis Report 2024, identifying the country as grappling with a substantial burden of viral hepatitis, notably Hepatitis B and C infections. This recognition underscores the urgent need for targeted interventions, public awareness campaigns, and healthcare initiatives to combat and reduce the prevalence of hepatitis in India, addressing both prevention and treatment strategies.


GS II: Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Findings of the Report
  2. Hepatitis: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Key Findings of the Report

India’s Hepatitis Burden:
  • High Prevalence in India:
    • India ranks among the countries with the highest viral hepatitis burden globally.
    • An estimated 2.9 crore individuals live with Hepatitis B, and 0.55 crore with Hepatitis C.
    • In 2022, India reported over 50,000 new Hepatitis B cases and 1.4 lakh new Hepatitis C cases, resulting in 1.23 lakh deaths.
Drivers of Hepatitis Infections in India:
  • Transmission Modes:
    • Hepatitis B and C spread through various channels, including mother-to-child, unsafe blood transfusions, infected blood contact, and needle-sharing among drug users.
    • Mother-to-child transmission remains a predominant Hepatitis B infection route in India, despite improved blood safety measures.
Diagnosis and Treatment Coverage:
  • Low Diagnosis and Treatment Rates:
    • Only 2.4% of Hepatitis B cases and 28% of Hepatitis C cases in India are diagnosed.
    • Treatment rates stand at 0% for Hepatitis B and 21% for Hepatitis C, despite the availability of cost-effective generic medications.
Barriers to Enhancing Hepatitis Outcomes:
  • Challenges with National Viral Hepatitis Control Program:
    • Limited program reach and utilization hinder effective control of viral hepatitis.
    • There’s a pressing need to broaden access to affordable diagnostic and treatment services through the program.
    • Emphasis on treating all diagnosed individuals, irrespective of disease stage, to mitigate health impacts and transmission.

Global Insights:

  • Mortality Trends:
    • Viral hepatitis caused approximately 1.3 million global deaths in 2022, equating to tuberculosis mortality rates.
    • Hepatitis B contributed to 83% of these fatalities, while Hepatitis C accounted for 17%.
    • Increasing mortality rates suggest a surge in hepatitis-related liver cancer incidences and deaths.
  • Prevalence Statistics:
    • Globally, around 304 million people had hepatitis B and C in 2022.
    • WHO estimates indicate 254 million people had hepatitis B, and 50 million had hepatitis C in the same year.
    • Children constitute 12% of this burden, with hepatitis B being particularly prevalent among them.
  • Challenges in Testing and Treatment Expansion:
    • Insufficient funding and centralized services have limited the expansion of testing facilities.
    • Many countries do not procure hepatitis medicines at affordable generic rates, resulting in elevated costs.
    • Patent-related obstacles hinder access to cost-effective hepatitis C medications in certain nations.

Hepatitis: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Hepatitis refers to the inflammation of the liver, a vital organ responsible for detoxification, protein synthesis, and the production of biochemicals necessary for digestion. It can be caused by various factors, including viral infections, alcohol consumption, and autoimmune diseases. There are several types of hepatitis, each with different causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Types of Hepatitis

Hepatitis A (HAV)

  • Cause: Hepatitis A virus (HAV) transmitted through contaminated food, water, or direct contact with an infected person.
  • Symptoms: Fever, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), dark urine, and clay-colored stools. It does not lead to chronic illness.

Hepatitis B (HBV)

  • Cause: Hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmitted through contact with infected blood, semen, or other body fluids, as well as from mother to baby during childbirth.
  • Symptoms: Similar to HAV but can lead to chronic illness, liver cirrhosis, and liver cancer if left untreated.

Hepatitis C (HCV)

  • Cause: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) transmitted primarily through blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing needles or other drug-injection equipment.
  • Symptoms: Often asymptomatic in the early stages but can lead to chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and liver cancer over time.

Hepatitis D (HDV)

  • Cause: Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is a defective virus that requires HBV for replication. It is transmitted through contact with infected blood or other body fluids.
  • Symptoms: Similar to HBV but often more severe. It can lead to a more rapid progression to liver cirrhosis and liver failure.

Hepatitis E (HEV)

  • Cause: Hepatitis E virus (HEV) transmitted mainly through contaminated water.
  • Symptoms: Similar to HAV, including jaundice, fatigue, nausea, and abdominal pain. It typically resolves on its own but can be severe in pregnant women.
Common Symptoms of Hepatitis
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dark urine and pale stools
  • Joint pain
  • Fever

-Source: The Hindu

May 2024