India Health

Hepatitis: A viral time bomb in India?

Globally, around 150 million people are estimated to be infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Actually, the prevalence of Hepatitis C infection in India is more than 6 times  the prevalence of HIV infection! What are the facts? Here goes…

  1.  HCV is a slient epidemic in India.
  2. Out of 1.2 billion population in India , HCV Prevalence is 1%96,000 deaths per year due to HCV in this country.
  3. About 3 million new cases of HCV infection occur per year in this country .
  4. A new antiviral drug Sofosbuvir was developed that improves the survival rate by 90%!
  5. The prevalence of HCV infection is estimated at between 0.5% and 1.5%.
  6. Globally, around 150 million people are estimated to be infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV).
  7. About 96,000 deaths per year due to HCV in India.
  8. HBV and HCV together are estimated to have led to 500 million chronically infected persons and one million deaths annually globally.
  9. HBV is the second most common cause of acute viral hepatitis after HEV in India. With a 3.7% point prevalence, that is, over 40 million HBV carriers, India is considered to have an intermediate level of HBV
  10.  Every year, one million Indians are at risk for HBV and about 100,000 die from HBV infection.
  11.  Epidemics due to unsafe injection practices have been documented in India (hepatitis B carriage and C infection is 46% and 38%, respectively), such as among injecting drug users and healthcare workers caring for infected people.
  12. Transmission through unsafe sexual intercourse and transmission from mothers to infants is well-established, though less frequent for HCV infection.
  13. Perinatal transmission is about 10% if the mother is hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive only and about 90% when the mother is positive for both HBsAg and hepatitis B e-antigen (HBeAg). HCV accounts for most of the post transfusion hepatitis cases.
  14. The ability of HBV and HCV to survive for prolonged periods in the external environment increases their infectivity
  15. India introduced universal immunization against hepatitis B in 10 states in the year 2002, and in 2011, scaled up this operation countrywide.
  16. Recently a pentavalent vaccine, which also protects against HBV, has been introduced in some states. The HBV vaccine also protects from HDV infection. There is no vaccine against HCV.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the hepatitis C virus (HCV) a “viral time bomb.” While, the world is entirely focusing on HIV and AIDS, more attention needs to be directed into less ‘famous’ viral diseases. It is essential that policy makers pay the much needed attention towards this health issue, despite it being termed as a silent killer.

 Screening and immunization of high-risk groups, such as those with history of exposure, risky practices, and occupational risk; specific measures for prevention of mother-to-child transmission and promoting safe blood supply, safe injections and safe sex are other recommended preventive measures.

  Written by Dr. SM Kadri, Public Health Specialist                                                                                                                                           Division of Epidemiology & Public Health, India                                                                                                                                                           For more information, check



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