World Hepatitis Day is recognised annually on July 28 to raise awareness among people about lethal viral infection, which affects more than 354 million people across the globe. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that leads to severe liver problems and hepatocellular cancer. World Hepatitis Day marks the birth anniversary of renowned physician Dr Baruch Blumberg, who had discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and had formulated the first hepatitis B vaccine in 1969. This year’s theme is “Hepatitis can’t wait”, which expresses the necessity of efforts required to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. Every 30 seconds an individual is dying worldwide from a hepatitis-related disease - even in times of COVID-19 Pandemic - we can’t wait to act on viral hepatitis.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in association with the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) observes to create an opportunity on this day to educate the populace about efforts to fight viral hepatitis across the globe and necessary actions people can take to avert these infections.
Viral hepatitis is a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, that causes both acute and chronic liver disease. As per statistics, India has intermediate to high endemicity for Hepatitis B and an estimated 40 million people are infected with HBV, comprising around 11% of the estimated global burden. This deadly infection causes more than one million mortality every year worldwide. While the death rate of tuberculosis and HIV have been slowly declining, deaths from viral hepatitis are increasing.
Read through this article to know how COVID-19 affects hepatitis.
COVID-19 is an infectious viral ailment that affects the respiratory tract, triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Elderly people and those with comorbid disease conditions, including people with liver disease are at a higher risk for severe illness from coronavirus.
Does COVID-19 Affect The Liver?
A few patients inflicted with COVID-19 had elevated levels of liver enzymes like alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST). This indicates that a person’s liver is being temporarily damaged and people with liver cirrhosis are at high risk of getting COVID-19. Furthermore, some studies have also disclosed that people with pre-existing liver disease are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, with prolonged hospitalization and increased mortality. Little is known about the effect of hepatitis B and C virus on the course of COVID-19. However, elderly people with viral hepatitis and other comorbid medical conditions like lung disease, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease are at a higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
How To Stay Healthy If You Are Living With HBV/HCV?
People with liver disease should strictly adhere to preventive measures being taken by all to avoid getting sick with or spreading COVID-19.
Getting vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine will protect you from contracting COVID-19 or lessen the impact if infected with coronavirus. Even after getting the shot, one should continue to follow safety protocols including wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer containing 60% alcohol, as these appear to be the most effective measures for preventing coronavirus transmission.
People living with hepatitis B or C should continue to maintain a disciplined lifestyle- eat a low fat foods with good quality protein, stay physically active and drink plenty of water. If you have hepatitis C or B and are being treated, then it is vital to continue your prescribed medications and follow the advice of your healthcare provider. This is the best possible way to build a robust immune system and stay healthy. Furthermore, make sure to keep regular follow up with healthcare provider and opt for telemedicine when possible.
Strictly avoid consuming alcohol, as it can worsen any underlying liver problem.
Manage healthy weight ,as extra fat stored in the liver can further damage liver health.
Recovery From Hepatitis
Hepatitis can be prevented in several ways from washing hands to getting a vaccine. However, it all depends on the types, as different types of hepatitis have different chances of recovery.
A person with HAV will generally recover in a span of two months with robust immunity for the rest of their life, most adults infected with HBV may recuperate within 90 days attaining lifelong immunity. But a person infected with hepatitis B may develop severe health issues and other chronic infections like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis C is known to be fatal in a small percentage of people, while it can become into chronic infection for most people. Currently, medications can completely cure HCV in a span of 8-24 weeks with a high cure rate of 95%.
Early diagnosis of hepatitis D infection is vital to prevent liver damage. If the condition is left untreated it may lead to complications like cirrhosis, liver disease and liver cancer is more likely to occur.