Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, July 25:
It is a matter of regret that Hepatitis B claims at least 1 million deaths worldwide every year despite the easy availability of a safe and effective vaccine against the disease, a leading doctor in Odisha has said.
“Hepatitis-B can be prevented through administration of a safe and effective vaccine which has been available since 1982. This vaccine has an outstanding record of safety and effectiveness which can be administered at any age or even during pregnancy,” Dr Manoj Sahu, associate professor and head in the Gastroenterology and Hepatology department of IMS and Sum Hospital, run by the SOA University, told media persons at a press briefing here today ahead of the World Hepatitis Day on July 28.
“A single shot of the vaccine is enough to protect a person for at least 20 years or even lifelong. Besides, those who have been diagnosed with the infection very early, effective treatments are available which can control and cure the infection. A simple screening test is required for the early diagnosis of the disease,” Dr Sahu pointed out.
Cancer and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are dreaded words worldwide. But generally, the Hepatitis-B infection is less discussed and feared though it is an equally dreaded killer and more infectious than HIV because people are not yet aware about the threat it poses.
“More people worry about contracting AIDS but Hepatitis-B is a much more virulent infection that destroys the liver. Most people who are infected with Hepatitis-B are unaware of their infection and are at high risk of developing severe chronic liver disease. They can unknowingly transmit the infection to other people,” he said.
There are at least 350 million infected persons in the planet, 46 million of them in India alone, battling the scourge, Dr Sahu said.
He said screening for the Hepatitis-B infection and vaccination was available free at IMS and Sum Hospital for any person and people should take advantage of this facility.
“On one side is this deadly virus which causes chronic liver disease leading to liver cancer and death. And on the other is the availability of a very effective and safe vaccine to prevent this infection. We must choose life and protect ourselves,” he said.
Prof DK Roy, Medical Director, IMS and Sum Hospital, said an “Umbrella Rally” by students and other activists would be held in the city on July 28 under the banner of the Centre of Health Awareness (CHA), an organization floated by SOA University to create awareness about the threat posed by Hepatitis-B.
Dr PK Mohanty, medical superintendent, Sum Hospital, Dr E Venkat Rao, associate professor, department of Community Medicine, IMS and Sum Hospital, Dr Manas Panigrahi of Gastroenterology department and Pravati Tripathy, dean, Sum Nursing College and convener of CHA also spoke.