India second highest in hepatitis B & C after China

News Excerpt:

According to a WHO’s 2024 Global Hepatitis Report report, India has the second-highest cases of hepatitis B and C after China, with 3.5 crore cases in 2022.


  • Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that is caused by a variety of infectious viruses  and non-infectious agents leading to a range of health problems.
  • It is the second-leading infectious cause of deaths globally — with 1.3 million deaths per year, the same as tuberculosis, a top spreadable killer.
  • There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. 
    • While they all cause liver disease, they differ in important ways including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.
  • Hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96% of overall hepatitis mortality.
  • Hepatitis B and C are transmitted by unsafe injection practices and through contaminated syringes and needles, infected blood and blood products, sexual transmission, from infected mother to child.

Key highlights of the report:

  • India  was second only to China in the viral hepatitis burden.
  • It registered 2.98 crore hepatitis B cases in 2022 while the number of hepatitis C infections stood at 55 lakh.
  • The  number of deaths globally from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022.  
    • 83% deaths were caused by hepatitis B, and 17% by hepatitis C.

    • Every day, there are 3,500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections
  • WHO estimates indicate that 254 million people lived with hepatitis B and 50 million with hepatitis C in 2022. 
  • Half the burden of chronic hepatitis B and C infections is among people between 30 and 54 years old, with 12% among children under 18 years. 
    • Men account for 58% of all cases.
  • Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and Vietnam, collectively contribute nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C.

India’s hepatitis challenge

  • In India 98,305 people died due to hepatitis B while 26,206 succumbed to hepatitis C in 2022. 
    • Only 2.4% of those infected in the country had received diagnosis coverage.
  • Chronic hepatitis B infection, which is vaccine preventable, accounts for 40 to 50% of hepatocellular carcinoma (a type of liver cancer) and 20 to 30% of cirrhosis cases in India.
  • The hepatitis B vaccination was first introduced in India in 2002–2003 as part of the Centre’s Universal Immunisation Programme.
    •  The vaccine was then expanded throughout the nation in 2010.
    • It is now provided as part of the pentavalent vaccine at 6, 10 & 14 weeks apart from the birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine.
  • However, despite rising rates of institutional deliveries, coverage of the third dose of the hepatitis B vaccine has reached 86%, birth-dose coverage was only 45% in 2015.

How can India overcome this burden?

  • In order to reduce the burden of hepatitis B in India, there is a need to ensure that all newborns receive complete vaccination. 
  • It should also be offered to adults who were born before the vaccine was included in the national programme.
  • There is a need to offer treatment to all those who have been diagnosed, just as it is done for HIV because it will reduce the health consequences for them.
  • The availability of short-term treatment for hepatitis C is enough to win the war against the infection. The course of treatment for hepatitis C lasts 12 to 24 weeks.

World Hepatitis Summit (WHS) 2024:

  • World Hepatitis Summit (WHS) 2024 is being hosted in Lisbon, Portugal. 
  • WHS is bringing together global experts to discuss the latest advances in hepatitis prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
  • The theme of the 2024 summit is “Integrate, Accelerate, Eliminate”.
  • WHS 2024 is being organised by the World Hepatitis Alliance with the support of the Ministry of Health of Portugal.

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