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WHO, ILBS host consultation meeting on viral hepatitis

India Blooms News Service | | 28 Jul 2014, 11:10 pm
New Delhi, July 28 (IBNS): On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day 2014, ILBS in partnership with the WHO Country Office for India on Monday organized first ever consultation meeting on viral hepatitis to examine gaps, challenges and priorities.
The National experts together with stakeholders from the government, academia, clinicians, public health experts, civil society, research institutions and partner agencies were part of this meeting. 
This year's theme, 'Think Again' acknowledges we do not know nearly enough about viral hepatitis as a health threat in much of the world. What we are learning is that transmission continues unabated in many settings leading to substantial morbidity and mortality.
Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India  said, "Hepatitis is a critical global public health problem even though it remains neglected. The situation in India is equally worrying. Ignorance of viral hepatitis is not an option. India needs reliable information on the burden of viral hepatitis for building prevention and control measures." On this World Hepatitis Day, Dr Nata called upon all partners and stakeholders to make the 'silent' epidemic of viral hepatitis more visible and more manageable. It is recommended that the national strategy for viral hepatitis in India address health systems strengthening and synergies between viral hepatitis and other programmes."
Lov Verma, Secretary Department of Health and Family Welfare, GOI informed the setting up of 10 regional laboratories by National communicable disease centre (NCDC) for viral hepatitis surveillance. 
The aim of these laboratories is to find the burden of Viral hepatitis in India by 2017 and to provide lab support for investigating outbreaks. 
Dr V K Subburaj, Secretary DAC (health and Family Welfare) said there is a need for coordination amongst various agencies to eradicate Viral Hepatitis. There is a need to focus on preventive aspects rather than treatment of Viral Hepatitis given the limited health resources in India. Education and awareness needs to be improved amongst health care workers and general public. Standardisation of blood bank practices and introduction of NAT is important for preventing blood transfusions related viral hepatitis. 
Dr Jagdish Prasad, DGHS GOI, stressed the co-operation between different government agencies, academia and stakeholders. He felt that  the role of media in spreading awareness was vital. This was followed by vote of thanks by Dr Vasantha Kumar, additional Secretary (Health & Family Welfare).
In the opening remarks in the Inaugural session, Director ILBS, Shiv Sarin  discussed the magnitude of the problem of Viral hepatitis in India. Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – affects millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease. Hepatitis B and C are both blood borne and can be transmitted from man to man. 
Hepatitis B is responsible for 1.4 million deaths every year (compared to 1.5 million deaths from HIV/AIDS and 1.2 million from each of malaria and TB). India has over 40 million hepatitis B infected patients  (second only to China) and constitutes about  15% of the entire pool of hepatitis B in the world.  Tribal areas in India have high prevalence of hepatitis B. 
Every year, nearly 600,000 patients die from HBV infection in the Indian continent. Chronic Hepatitis B  infection accounts for about 30% of liver cirrhosis and  40-50% of liver cancers in India. Outbreaks of acute and fulminant hepatitis B still occur mainly due to iinadequately sterilized needles and syringes. He further added that Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) is mandated to work on the prevention and management of Viral Hepatitis in India and is committed towards making India Hepatitis Free by 2080.
In the strategy session, Dr Nicole Seguy (WHO Country Office, India) discussed the World health assembly resolution for controlling viral hepatitis. She also discussed the global and regional hepatitis framework for action including the four Axis. 
Dr G N Singh (DCGI) said that India is the pharma hub of the world and could play a vital role in reducing the cost of antivirals and other drugs for Viral Hepatitis. He emphasised the need to do basic clinical and operational research in India.