India is very vulnerable to hepatitis as it is yet to initiate a
mass vaccination programme to check the disease, experts say,
pointing out that half the world's children who have not been
vaccinated are in the country.
"Over 50 percent of the world's 44 million children who have not
got the hepatitis vaccine are in India, making them most
vulnerable to the disease," S.P. Singh, secretary of the Indian
National Association for the Study of Liver (INASL), told IANS.
"Many nations across the world, including Bangladesh and Pakistan,
but excluding India, have undertaken a mass hepatitis vaccination
programme," Singh said.
Singh and many other liver disease and hepatitis experts from
India and abroad were here to attend a two-day national seminar
that began Monday.
According to experts, of the six Hepatitis strains (A, B, C, D, E
and G), Hepatitis B and C are the most dangerous as these are
transmitted through blood.
"Two to four percent Indians in the plains and 20 percent tribals
in the mountainous areas, including the northeastern region, are
affected by Hepatitis B virus," said Singh, who is also head of
the department of gastroenterology in SCB Medical College, Cuttack,
In Tripura, over 5,000 children have so far been covered under the
'at birth Hepatitis vaccination' programme since January this
To make the state hepatitis free, the NGO Hepatitis Foundation of
Tripura (HFT) in association with the Tripura government had
launched the programme Jan 7.
"This is, in fact, a China model where they have attained maximum
success of 99.98 percent after running the 'at birth Hepatitis B
vaccination," said HFT president Pradip Bhaumik.
HFT has been spearheading the movement for a hepatitis-free world
for 10 years.
"The disease can cause liver cancer, liver cirrhosis,
hepatocellular carcinoma and serious other liver ailments and
other organ damage," Bhaumik told IANS.
Experts urged Indian and other state governments to introduce the
Tripura model across the country.
Also present at the meet was Abhijit Choudhury, head of the
department of gastroenterology and liver diseases in the Institute
of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research and Seth Sukhlal
Karnani Memorial Hospital in Kolkata.
"Hepatitis B and C are dangerous diseases like AIDS and cancer.
Though the vaccines for Hepatitis are easily available, the Indian
government is yet to take the mass vaccination programme in
"After hepatitis turned into an epidemic in Taiwan, the
authorities in 1984 launched the 'at birth Hepatitis B
vaccination' and achieved over 99 percent success," he added.
Bhaumik said: "In India, among liver disease patients, 30 percent
of them are alcoholic liver disease sufferers."
Choudhury and Bhaumik said a large number of people also suffer
from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
According to Chennai's Apollo Hospital consultant
gastroenterologist A.T. Mohan, due to population migration and
associated microbial migration, various diseases like Hepatitis B
and C were being transmitted among newer people, specially tribals.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)