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DNA India
19 May 2010
Ahmedabad, India

That pretty–looking tattoo can do much more than add to your beauty. If done without exercising due care, it can infect you with deadly viruses hepatitis B and C. May 19 is World Hepatitis Day, and experts are trying to raise awareness on the disease, elaborating on various causes of hepatitis, and the things that can be done to protect oneself from the same.

Few know that both hepatitis B and C are spread the same way as AIDS, but the amount of blood needed to transmit them is far less than in case of the HIV virus. Hence, even minute, micro–sized scars make one vulnerable to contracting these.

“Hepatitis B and C viruses generally spread by the re–use of syringes. Unfortunately, such syringes are often used to make tattoos on the back or biceps”, said Dr Shravan Bohra, liver specialist at Apollo hospitals.

Cases of hepatitis contracted through minor abrasions occurring during tattoos or beauty treatments like manicures and pedicures have been reported both in India and abroad, and are on a constant rise. Approximately 170 million people worldwide have either hepatitis B or C. This means that 1 of every 12 people worldwide is battling a chronic version of either of the two. “If left untreated, hepatitis B or C can lead to advanced liver scarring (cirrhosis) and other complications including liver cancer or liver failure. Every year 1.5 million people die of either hepatitis B or C,” said Dr Navneet Shah, a noted physician who confirmed the trend of hepatitis infections rising in Gujarat due to a lack of awareness on how it spreads.

More people die of hepatitis B in a day than of AIDS in an entire year, says a WHO report. India, recognising this, launched its fight against the killer disease by starting hepatitis B vaccination programme in 32 selected districts and 15 urban slums last year.

The national prevalence rate for hepatitis B is 4.7 per cent while that of AIDS is less than one per cent, notes the WHO report for India.

About 45 million people in India are infected with hepatitis B and about 15 million with hepatitis C, which is primarily due to lack of awareness, it notes.

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