Hepatitis-free future

Dr Nikhil Mahajan
World Hepatitis Day is one of eight official global public healthcampaigns marked by the WHO. World Hepatitis Day is commemorated each year on 28 July to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes a range of health problems, including liver cancer.
There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. Together, Hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of deaths, with around 1.4 million lives lost each year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, viral hepatitis continues to claim thousands of lives every day.
Hepatitis A and E are water/ food borne and spread via feco-oral route. Vaccination against hepatitis A is available. These doses should be given at least 6 months apart. Children are routinely vaccinated between their first and second birthdays. Vaccines against hepatitis E currently are neither approved nor available. Hepatitis E infection continues to takes a toll on pregnant ladies with high morbidity and even mortality. Good personal hygiene and good eating habits are all that are needed to prevent both hepatitis A and E.
Hepatitis B, C and D are blood borne and transmitted via both horizontal and vertical transmission. Horizontal transmission is from person to person via needle stick injury (ex. to health care workers, sharing of used needles), sexual transmission (heterosexual and homosexual) and infected blood donation. Vertical transmission is from mother to child via perinatal exposure. Horizontal transmission can be prevented by following standard syringe precautions and by maintaining monogamous relation with partners along with use of protection while intercourse.
This year’s theme is “Hepatitis-free future,” with a strong focus on preventing Hepatitis B (HBV) among mothers and new-borns. This can be achieved in two ways. First by vaccination. Vaccinating newborn as per guidelines and also adults especially females who have not been previously vaccinated. Secondly, preventing vertical transmission from infected pregnant ladiesto fetus and new borns is done by two ways. In newborn, by immunoglobulin injection and following vaccination protocol. In infected pregnant ladies, by following standard treatment protocols.
On 28 July, WHO will publish new recommendations on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the virus.