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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

About Hepatitis C

Hepatitis is a serious liver disease that spreads easily and can be difficult to detect. Fortunately, there are vaccines available for hepatitis A and B and there are effective treatments available for hepatitis C. By educating ourselves about the risks and symptoms, we can work to reduce the number of infectedIndians

Hepatitis C is a blood-born viral infection of the liver that was first identified only
in 1989. Few people realise that they are infected as the symptoms are non-specific (such as fatigue) and people tend to become aware when their disease is quite advanced. Transmission by blood products has been reduced to almost zero due to screening for the virus so today the most common route of transmission is use of unsterilised needles (such as those used in tattooing and
by intravenous drug users) and syringes.

Hepatitis C is the most infectious virus having 50 per cent chronicity and is responsible for large number of patients affected with cirrhosis. If not treated early may require liver transplant or may further develop to liver cancer.

If 100 people became infected with hepatitis C, approximately 25 people would be able to clear the virus without any medication within six months of being infected. The majority, however (the other 75 people), would develop ongoing (called "chronic") infection that will require medication to help get rid of it. Some people will unfortunately not know they are infected and will develop damage to their liver before the infection is diagnosed. Untreated, hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer and some may require a liver transplant

As is the case with many other diseases, our first line of defense is prevention. Since many individuals may not know that they are carrying the disease, it is important that each of us take precautions to avoid spreading viruses. By washing our hands, fully cooking food and avoiding possibly contaminated water, we can protect ourselves and others against exposure.

For those who feel they may have become infected, it is important that they be checked as soon as possible. There are many treatments for hepatitis, but the effects of the disease can be permanently damaging if not treated early. While it is important to vaccinate newborns, adults who have not been vaccinated in a number of years may also need to receive vaccinations.

Hepatitis can affect all segments of society, regardless of age, sex, race or class, and I encourage all Indians to take action to prevent spreading this disease.

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