Unseen enemy

An estimated 1.5 million Nepalis are living with Hepatitis A, B or C. While type A does not lead to chronic hepatitis (one lasting more than six months), types B and C can cause chronic hepatitis and ultimately liver cirrhosis and cancer. Thankfully, most Nepalis are infected with type A virus that is primarily transmitted through unhygienic food and water; B and C transfer through body fluids. Hepatitis B (immunisation against which is widely and cheaply available in Nepal) alone accounts for over a million deaths per year worldwide. The most virulent form, Hepatitis C, infects some 180 million people, 130 million of whom are chronic hepatitis patients. HCV (Hepatitis C virus) is responsible for 76% of all liver cancer and two-third of liver transplantations worldwide.

A recent case study in Kathmandu found that 70% of the respondents belonging to the most

vulnerable groups — sex workers, people with AIDS and drug users — are completely ignorant about hepatitis; even the remaining 30 per cent know very little about the disease. In this light, the slogan of World Hepatitis Awareness Day on Oct.1 “Get tested” was very relevant as it is the first step towards curbing the spread of hepatitis. It is indeed sad that while so much money is going into diseases like AIDS, a much more dangerous and pervasive disease like hepatitis is being ignored. Health costs from hepatitis are too big to be ignored any longer. There is an acute need for a massive campaign to make the people aware about the dangers of hepatitis.