Mumbai: Amid the surge in swine flu and Covid cases in the city, more than 100 hepatitis cases have surfaced in the last two months, the highest in the last three years. According to data from the civic health department, around 55 new cases of hepatitis were reported in July.
Hepatitis A and E are liver inflammations caused by several viruses (viral hepatitis), chemicals, drugs, alcohol, or certain genetic disorders. They could also be caused by an overactive immune system mistakenly attacking the liver, termed autoimmune hepatitis. Depending on its course, hepatitis can either be chronic or acute. In cases where hepatitis is critical, it can flare up at constant intervals, while chronic hepatitis is generally a long-term condition resulting in progressive liver damage.
Anand K, CEO, SRL Diagnostics, said, “Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) are known to cause chronic hepatitis, which can lead to complications including cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. Hepatitis is a silent epidemic, killing thousands each year. The inclusion of HBV vaccination in the expanded programme of immunisation has been essential to reducing the HBV carrier frequency and disease burden in India. Much more awareness and screening of hepatitis is the need of the hour.”
Patients of acute hepatitis present with fever, malaise, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
Last year, there were 308 hepatitis cases and one death reported in Mumbai. This year, however, in just seven months, this number has been reached, according to BMC records. In 2020, the city had reported 263 hepatitis cases.
According to doctors, hepatitis cases are commonly detected in the young adult population.
Dr Akash Shukla, Director, Hepatology, at the Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, said, “Young adults are the highest consumers of street food, are socially and sexually active, and also are enthusiastic travellers, making them vulnerable to food-borne liver diseases like Hepatitis A and E and sexually transmissible liver diseases like hepatitis B and C. Adults with Hepatitis A and pregnant women with Hepatitis E are at higher risk of developing liver failure. Vaccines are available for Hepatitis A and B but not for Hepatitis C or E.”
Notably, viral hepatitis is a major healthcare burden in India and is considered a threat comparable to the ‘big three’ communicable diseases – HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. In India, around 40 million people are infected with Hepatitis B and at least 6 to 12 million people with Hepatitis C. About 1,76,000 people die each year of Hepatitis B- and C-related complications – twice the estimated annual number of HIV and malaria deaths together, as per the World Health Organization (WHO) data.