Dr Amit Nabar, Consultant-Critical Care and HOD-Accident and Emergency Medicine, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim-A Fortis Associate speaks on preventive measures against hepatitis E
The highly awaited season of rains is here, however, as monsoon brings with it the most conducive environment for disease spreading germs to multiply. Along with common infections, fever, cold and cough that strike during monsoon, people are also exposed to the more serious infections like hepatitis E during this season.
Hepatitis E is a potentially serious liver disorder that is transmitted through consumption of faeces contaminated water or food. As there is a high likelihood of water contamination during this season, especially in water in supply lines and storage tanks, an upsurge in the prevalence of hepatitis E is observed. You also can get hepatitis E if you eat undercooked meat from infected animals; raw shellfish is another culprit. The good news is that this infection can be tackled with appropriate medical intervention. The most common symptoms of hepatitis E are:
- Loss of appetite
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Joint pain
- Pain in the abdomen
- Liver enlargement
- Nausea and vomiting
- Extreme tiredness
Prevention of hepatitis E: First and foremost, it is imperative that one is aware of the risks of hepatitis and therefore adopt preventive measures. The disease during this season is referred to as a ‘silent killer’, as many people ignore the symptoms, self-medicate or only take cognisance of the symptoms when the infection has reached an advanced stage. Hepatitis is a food and water borne disease with faecal-oral route being the primary route of transmission. It is mainly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food and is largely found in areas with poor hand hygiene and sanitation. Good sanitation, personal hygiene and availability of clean drinking water, form the cornerstone of its prevention strategy;
- Avoid eating unclean raw food and vegetables; care should be taken while preparing uncooked fruits or vegetables (example salads juices)
- Avoid buying food from street vendors, and care should be taken to not eat pre-cut fruits that may have been washed in contaminated water
- Juices and other drinks carry an equal risk due to possible usage of contaminated ice
- Good sanitary habits need to be encouraged and importance of ‘hand washing after defecation’ and ‘before preparing and consuming food’ must be emphasised upon in the community
- Open defecation must be stopped so that water sources aren’t impacted; this will help in prevention of diseases that are transmitted by the faecal-oral route
- Drink only boiled or purified water
Treatment of hepatitis E: When you start seeing symptoms, consult your doctor immediately. Shared detailed medical history and most importantly, share details about your recent travels. A blood test or a stool test to diagnose hepatitis E, might be prescribed. It is imperative that the doctor prescribed medicines be consumed as per dosage, food and water consumption must be monitored.
Hepatitis E can be dangerous for pregnant women or anyone with weak immune systems, including children, the elderly or people who are ill. It is advisable to practice good hygiene which is the fundamental to avoid contracting hepatitis E and A.
To curb the increasing disease burden of all types of hepatitis, India rolled out the National Viral Hepatitis Control Programme (NVHCP) earlier this year, with an aim to eliminate viral hepatitis that infects and kills more than HIV, malaria and TB, combined, as per reports.