A silent menace | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 27, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:58 AM, July 27, 2018

A silent menace

85 lakh people carrying hepatitis B virus in Bangladesh, according to study

When she was a child, Priyanka Ahmed Oninda needed blood transfusion due to severe shortage of blood. Her family arranged donors and she was given bags of blood; all seemed well.

All was not well, however. A couple of years later, Priyanka -- a primary school student then -- one day started vomiting blood. Following several check-ups, doctors confirmed that she was carrying hepatitis B virus, one of the viruses responsible for liver cirrhosis.

“I have been carrying this virus for 12 years. Each day I have to take Tk 80 worth of medicine. My family has spent over Tk 25 Lakh so far for my treatment,” said Priyanka, who passed SSC this year.

Bearing the expenses for her treatment has become very difficult for the eight-member family of Priyanka, whose father is no more.

There are nearly 85 lakh people in the country carrying the hepatitis B virus, knowingly or unknowingly, according to a study conducted by Hepatology Society, an organisation of doctors of Dhaka.

The study, launched yesterday at a seminar in Dhaka's Cirdap, said the disease can be controlled if detected early.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. Viruses cause most cases of hepatitis. The type of hepatitis is named after the virus that causes it: hepatitis A, B or C, for example.

The study, done by Dr Shahinul Alam, general secretary of the organisation, was conducted on 2,713 people from Dhaka city, four district towns (Feni, Mymensingh, Bogra and Patuakhali) and four sub-district towns (Pabna Sadar, Chatkhil, Bheramara and Keraniganj) from December 2015 to January 2017.

According to the study, the prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is 5.1 percent and C virus infection is 0.2 percent. The report says five in every 100 adults are carrying HBV, indicating that about 85 lakh adults are suffering from HBV infections in the country.

The result also shows that prevalence of HBV is twice as dominant among men (57 lakh) than women (28 lakh).

The data also shows that younger population, ranging from 18 to 30 years, are mostly affected by the virus -- around 25 lakh.

“If one family member has this virus then others are likely to be affected by it as it is blood-related,” said Dr Shahinul while presenting his keynote paper.

According to World Hepatitis Alliance, out of 325 million people living with viral hepatitis globally, 290 million are not aware of it.

Speaking at the seminar, liver and medicine specialist at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) Prof Nooruddin Ahmad said, “The virus is spread from pregnant mother to child.”

If pregnant women can be detected earlier with the virus and treated accordingly, the virus will not spread among children, he said, adding that government should run free tests to stop the virus at health clinics and also provide free treatment.

This year, World Hepatitis Day is going to be observed on July 28. The theme of the day is “Eliminate Hepatitis” and the slogan is “Find the Missing Millions, Get Tested”.

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