Over one lakh people get infected by the deadly Hepatitis C virus (HCV) in India every year. Medical doctors and patient groups across India have strongly advocated the need to recognize Hepatitis C as a national health priority and implementation of an integrated action plan to address the growing burden of the disease in the country.
People now believe that by 2030, the US may become free of Hepatitis C. So while India has been late in screening, diagnosis, treatment, our goal should be to scale up in these areas as soon as possible and aim to get rid of the disease from our country by 2040-50. With the availability of Sofosbuvir base oral treatment in India, we hope more and more patients of HCV will benefit from it.
India accounts for a significant share of global HCV infections. It is estimated that 2,88,000 new HCV infections occurred in India in 2014. Nearly 96,000 people die annually in India due to Hepatitis C, which has become a hidden epidemic according to WHO report, ‘Global policy report on prevention and control of viral Hepatitis’. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) a “viral time bomb.”
It is essential that the policy makers pay the much needed attention towards this health issue, despite it being termed as a silent killer. At the 2010 World Health Assembly, it recognised the viral hepatitis epidemic as “a global public health problem,” calling for comprehensive programs that “enhance access to affordable treatment in developing countries.
HCV is not as rapid a killer as HBV or HIV; it is a slow and silent killer. If 100 people get infected with Hepatitis B and they are not treated for it, over the next six months 95% of those people will be free of the virus and only 5% will remain chronic carriers of HBV.
However, if people are injected with Hepatitis C, 80% people are at the risk of becoming chronic carriers. HCV is almost always chronic. Once the HCV enters the blood stream it is unlikely that a person can be rid of it without medication. This is why an infected person must not wait and start their treatment as early as possible.