Various estimates suggest that in our country, there are 20 to 25 million Hepatitis B virus (HBV) positive persons and another 10 million Hepatitis C virus (HCV) positive cases. The irony, doctors assert, is that a majority of such persons are unaware that they are infected resulting in a silent HBV infection.

Gastroenterologists regret that many are unaware about the existence of a HBV vaccine and there is no age limit for its administration. Any person who has tested positive for HBsAg, which is usually done during routine blood tests, should opt for a simple liver function test to ascertain whether they are inactive HBV carriers.

“Inactive carriers are those who have HBV virus in their body but the viral DNA level is less than 2,000 International Units. Such persons do not have inflammation of liver and liver function is normal. However, they should careful because once their immunity levels drop, then HBV simply emerges,” says Head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology department, Yashoda Hospitals, Dr. B. Ravi Shankar.

So what is hepatitis? Hepatitis is inflammation of liver due to viral infection. There are four types of hepatitis that include A, B, C, D and E. Of the four, types B and C cause chronic liver diseases and lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer. Usually, the type D virus occurs with HBV and doctors maintain that HBV vaccination will be enough to keep the type D at bay.

Doctors maintain that spreading awareness on various hepatitis, causes, symptoms and cure among general public is important. “Doctors should spread awareness about these viruses. General public should know that vaccine exists for Hepatitis A and B. Awareness very important,” says Dr. Ravi Shankar.

Mainly, Hepatitis A and E are caused due to exposure to polluted water and food and vaccination for hepatitis A is available. “Many tend to compare hepatitis B with HIV. This should not be done. Adults should opt for screening for hepatitis virus. Hepatitis B and C are mainly is transmitted through blood transfusions, contaminated injections during medical procedures, transmission from infected mothers to children is also possible,” doctors said.