‘Every 15th carrier of Hepatitis C virus (HCV) an Indian’

March 30th, 2009 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, March 30 (IANS) Every 15th carrier of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is an Indian and 12.5 million Indians suffer from HCV, with the death rate exceeding over 100,000 per year, a doctor’s conference here was told.
The most common risk factor for Hepatitis C infection today is intravenous drug use, especially through sharing of contaminated needles, the 17th annual conference of the Indian National Association for the Study of Liver (INASL) held here over the weekend was told.

In fact, 60 percent to 80 percent of all IV-drug users are infected with the HCV. Other risk factors include tattooing and body piercing if the tattoo/body piercing needles are not properly sterilized, it emerged during the conference.

According to Ajay Kumar, a senior consultant at the Indraprastha Apollo hospital here, “although hepatitis is not easily spread through sexual intercourse, high-risk behaviour, such as multiple sexual partners, is associated with an increased risk of HCV.

“Blood transfusions are another leading cause of HCV where unsuspecting patients are given blood which has the Hepatitis C virus”, he added.

The conference discussed the best options for early detection, management and treatment of Hepatitis amongst various other complications affecting the liver such as acute liver failure, fatty liver disease, and hepatic encephalopathy along with recent updates on liver transplantation.

S.K. Acharya, professor and head of the Gastroenterology department at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, said: “Hepatitis C is responsible for as many as one in four cases of liver cancer and 20 percent of chronic liver disease is because of Hepatitis C.

“However, if detected early, Hepatitis C can be cured, while Hepatitis B treatment only suppresses the infection,” he added.

According to V. Saraswat of Lucknow’s Sanjay Gandhi Post-Graduate Medical Institute, “there may be no symptoms in the first six months of infection. Nearly 20 percent of those infected clear the virus from their body naturally and experience no long-term effects from the infection.

“However, for the remaining 80 percent a chronic or long-term infection can develop. The course of a chronic hepatitis C infection is extremely varied and unpredictable. Because of the common absence of symptoms, many people are unaware that they have a hepatitis C infection until sometime after infection,” Saraswat pointed out.

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