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Hepatitis-B a much bigger threat than HIV/AIDS: Experts

Hepatitis-B kills more people in a day than the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) does in a year, but the HIV has got into the public psyche as a much bigger threat, an expert said here on Friday.

“As on date, there are approximately 500 million people affected by the Hepatitis-B virus worldwide of which 15 per cent exist in India. The biggest concern is that 95 per cent of the affected don’t even know that they carry the dreaded virus which can cause permanent liver damage,” Dr. Manoj Kumar Sahu, Head of the department of Gastroenterology at the Institute of Medical Sciences and SUM Hospital, said.

Addressing several hundred Scout and Guide cadets on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day on Friday, Dr. Sahu said Hepatitis-B was 100 times more infectious than HIV and takes the same route as HIV to infect a person.

“The good news, however, is that a very effective vaccine is available since 1982 to counter the threat of Hepatitis-B and once a person is immunized it could protect a person from the infection for life,” he said adding if a person is infected effective drugs were available to fight the infection at the early stage.

The World Health Organisation’s theme for this year’s Hepatitis Day has been ‘Elimination of Hepatitis’. The Scout and Guide cadets along with several eminent doctors took out a rally on Janpath on the occasion carrying placards to spread awareness about the dreaded virus.

Ananta Narayan Jena, Mayor of Bhubaneswar Municipal Council and local legislator Mr. Priyadarshi Mishra spoke on the occasion as also Dr. Gangadhar Sahu and Dr. Pushparaj Samantasinhar, Dean and Medical Superintendent respectively of IMS and SUM Hospital. Besides, Mr. R.M.Dora, Secretary of the Odisha unit of Bharat Scout and Guides and Dr. Jimmy Narayan, Gastroenterologist at SUM Hospital also spoke. The program was jointly organized by IMS and SUM Hospital, a constituent of SOA University and the Odisha unit of Bharat Scouts and Guides.

Dr. Sahu explained that Hepatitis meant inflammation of the liver and it had five different viruses categorized as A, B,C, D and E. The B and C types were the most dangerous. “Once infected, the virus silently causes liver scarring or cirrhosis and leads to other complications including liver cancer,” he said.

Screening for the virus was a must for every person, the noted gastroenterologist said while stressing the need for immunization. “If people guarded against the infection and took care to get immunized Hepatitis-B can be eradicated completely as in the case of Small Pox.”

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