Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Viral hepatitis is caused by infection with one of the five known liver infecting viruses, which are hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV), and hepatitis E virus (HEV.
The most common features of infection with HAV or HEV are an illness characterised by sudden onset of fever and systemic symptoms followed a few days later by jaundice.
A seroepidemiological study on the most common forms of viral hepatitis among the Bhutanese population was done on 1,666 healthy people of both sexes and on a group of 440 pregnant women.
The study showed Anti-HAV in all 171 tested subjects over 12 years of age, Anti-HEV positive in two percent of 257 tested subjects and Anti-HCV in 1.3 percent of 611 tested subjects.
Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) was found in 5.9 percent of the sample of the general population including children, young people and adults and 5.4 percent of pregnant women. 29.1 percent of HBsAg-positive pregnant women were HBeAg- and HBV DNA-positive.
Dr. G.P Dhakal, gastroenterologist and head of medicine department said, “In Bhutan the exact burden of Hepatitis due to different hepatitis viruses is difficult to know.” He said that viral hepatitis is a global public health problem. According to the annual health bulletin about 650 hepatitis cases are reported every year.
It is said that the majority of people with acute viral hepatitis recover spontaneously within a few weeks, without any residual consequences.
According to WHO, there are approximately 100 million hepatitis B carriers and 30 million hepatitis C carriers in the South-East Asia Region.
Infections with HBV, HCV, or HDV have the potential to cause persistent infection in a subset of those infected. Such infection may be associated with ongoing liver damage, which may progress to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer and which can become life-threatening.
However HBV infection is seen as a major global health concern with almost half of the world’s population living in an area with high HBV prevalence. It is also known to be the second leading cause of cancer behind tobacco. Of the world’s six billion population, two billion is diagnosed with the evidence of HBV infection.
About 25–40 percent die of cirrhosis or liver cancer and approximately 350 million deaths were caused due to it, of which 75 percent death is in Asia.