By Dr. Lakshmana Kumar
India is a tropical country, with plenty of rainfall, heat and humidity, which is ideal for the growth of viruses. Add to it poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water, makes India one of the world’s biggest hotbeds of Hepatitis. Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver caused by viruses A, B, C, D or E. India is second only to China in having over 40 million Hepatitis B infected patients, second only to China. The unique capacity of staying passive and silently hampering the infected not just makes this a deadly disease but also comes with various myths about it. Here we discuss the 10 most common myths about the disease.
- Hepatitis and jaundice are one and same thing.
FACT: Jaundice is actually the accumulation of bilirubin in the body. Jaundice is caused due to many things, one of it is Hepatitis.
- All viral hepatitis infections are spread in the same manner.
FACT: Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E are spread by eating contaminated food or drinking water. Touching contaminated objects can also cause infection. However, direct contact with infected blood or body fluid is required to get infected by Hepatitis B and C.
- Hepatitis A is more severe in childhood.
FACT: No. Most deaths from acute hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection occur in people older than 50 years and/or with chronic liver disease.
- Hepatitis B vaccines will prevent people infected with Hepatitis B virus from getting sick.
FACT: Those people who are not affected by the Hepatitis B virus can be vaccinated. But if patients are already infected they need to be treated for it.
- Hepatitis B infection is not treatable.
FACT: The disease cannot be cured, but can be manageable. Many medicines are effective in suppressing, slowing or reversing the liver disease. Life-long monitoring is required by all chronic patients.
- In countries with high prevalence of HBV, patients have to be 40 before being screened for the disease.
FACT: Screening of patients from high-risk regions, like the Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, India and Africa, should take place immediately. The virus might be active in their liver at birth or from early childhood and may become active liver disease at any age.
- Touching casually can spread Hepatitis B and C infections.
FACT: You don’t get Hepatitis B and C by hugs, kisses or casual touching. Only direct contact with the blood or body fluid of an infected person with those viruses can spread the virus. If a pregnant mother is infected, she may give Hepatitis C to her newborn child.
- Symptoms of Hepatitis B and C can be readily seen right away.
FACT: Symptoms are not often seen though the viruses may be present in the body. In almost 70-80 % acute Hepatitis C patients the symptoms may not be noticeable.
- Vaccination can prevent Hepatitis C.
FACT: Hepatitis A and B can be prevented with vaccines, but not Hepatitis C. Doctors recommend these vaccines to prevent further damage.
- Acute Hepatitis B always progresses to chronic HBV infection
FACT: Approximately 90% of infected infants will develop chronic infection. As the child gets older, the chances of it getting infected reduces and 25–50% of children infected between the ages of 1 and 5 years will develop chronic hepatitis. The risk drops to 6–10% when the child is aged over 5. Globally, chronically infected patients have been infected with Hepatitis B at birth or during early childhood.
About: Dr. Laxmana Kumar began working on infectious diseases, hepatitis, gastroenterology and liver diseases in St. John’s Medical College. After a 14 year-stint in India, he stayed worked as a consultant in all aspects of heptalogy in UK for 7 years and returned to India. He is currently a Consultant Gastroenterologist in Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal as. Dr. Laxmana has a son and his wife is a pediatrician.