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18 May 2010
By Jyoti Shelar
Mumbai, India

When 65-year-old author Vineet Madhavan (name changed) recently underwent a liver function test, the doctors suspected something amiss. A few more tests confirmed that Madhavan had contracted hepatitis C. The only reason Madhavan could think of for contracting the disease was a visit to the dentist.

An elderly woman in Kolhapur died of liver cirrhosis due to Hepatitis B. Her doctor suggested her children undergo blood tests and results showed that five of them, three daughters and two sons, had contracted the disease.

Dr Samir Shah, consultant gastroenterologist, Jaslok and Breach Candy Hospital, who treated the five, said, “The treatment for hepatitis B has advanced tremendously over the last decade. However, the disease should be detected early. In this particular case, all five family members received immediate treatment and they are now leading a normal life.”

As the world observed the World Hepatitis Day on Tuesday, experts said that people still lack the promptness to get themselves screened. The key to prevent hepatitis B and C, which turn into chronic liver diseases, is to be aware about our own lifestyle, they said.

“If someone has undergone blood transfusion, it’s very important for him to get screened for hepatitis C,” said Dr Abha Nagral, liver specialist, Jaslok and Fortis Hospital, who treated Madhavan. “In his case, the virus was detected earlier, which helped in the treatment. He underwent a 48-week anti-virus treatment,” said Nagral, adding that in India, a majority of the victims are those who undergo blood transfusions, which includes women who have delivered children or have undergone uterus removal.

According to Shah, who is also the secretary of the National Liver Foundation, “Many people generate the capacity to clear out the hepatitis B virus on their own. However, it’s important for the family members to get screened as not everyone generates the immunity.”

In hepatitis C cases, a small percentage of patients show symptoms like loss of appetite, fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, itching etc. However, it’s known as a silent killer, as many people only learn about the disease about 15-20 years after contracting it.

While hepatitis C is mainly contracted through blood transfusion, Hepatitis B can be contracted though saliva or any other body fluid.

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