It is estimated that 240 million people worldwide have hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is a virus that is transmitted through contact with the blood or bodily fluid of someone who is infected. This can occur through sexual contact, being bitten, sharing personal items such as toothbrushes or razors, from mother to baby during birth, through needle sharing during drug use or tattooing, or from an open wound on the body coming into contact with a surface that is contaminated. Hepatitis B can last on almost any surface for up to one month.
Only about 50% of people with hepatitis B show symptoms, which include jaundice, dark urine, fever, exhaustion, nausea, or pain in the joints or abdomen. Since so many do not show any symptoms, it is possible for them to live with hepatitis B and infect others without their knowledge.
Although this virus can be scary since it is so easily transmitted, only about 5% of people become chronically infected, the rest are able to recover with treatment. The prevention plan is to vaccinate with a series of 3 shots given over 6 months of time. The typical treatment for hepatitis B is a course of antiviral medication, though chronic patients may need injections of interferon or, in the worst cases, a liver transplant.
An Every Day Hero’s Story
In India, approximately 40% of its people are infected with hepatitis B, or about 3% of the country’s population. This is very damaging to the country because those with symptoms of the virus are often at a severe disadvantage; they are unable to attend school or work, and quickly fall behind their peers in the education and professional worlds. Children with symptoms are often kept home with stomach pains, jaundice, or nausea, though their parents often do not know the cause of their illness. Adults who are suffering with pain, nausea, or exhaustion may require so much time away from work that they can fall behind on paying their bills. They can even lose their job because of their lack of attendance and ability to perform at the level expected of them. Plus, misinformation about the virus can lead to struggles finding life partners and spouses, as people fear becoming infected or being stigmatized due to being in a relationship with an infected person. In India, there is a great deal of importance placed on finding the right mate and being considered “dirty” or “unable to provide for the family” can cause a person to miss out on the opportunity to marry during the small window in the Indian culture when a person is within what is considered to be the appropriate age for being arranged and married. Although the facts and realities of being infected seem grim, two men have decided to join the fight. Surender Kumar and his friend Sandeep Godara (both from New Delhi, India) created Rann India Foundation, a nonprofit organization, after Kumar discovered he had hepatitis B, as did his mother and brother. Kumar and his family had no idea how they had become infected or how long they had been infected, something he discovered was a common occurrence among Indians. With that new awareness, they have reached out to numerous other organizations as well as pharmaceutical companies to work together to raise awareness in India about hepatitis B, both how to prevent it and in sharing the facts about transmission. They are focused on doing this within the poorest and most rural areas of India, though they do hope the project grows and reaches people throughout the country.
What Can I Do to Help?
If you are specifically interested in helping the Rann India Foundation, you can contact them at: email@example.com. If you are looking to focus more on your own community, it is always wise to begin with yourself and your loved ones. Make sure you have been tested for hepatitis B and that you encourage your family and friends to do the same. Read and research about the virus and share the information you learn with those around you, making sure to correct misunderstandings and misinformation. If you want to continue to speak up about this virus, you can reach out to your local hospital or clinic and ask about volunteering in whatever capacity you feel comfortable with. No matter how you decide to help, remember that the stigma of being tested for hepatitis B and for having hepatitis B is strong and can sometimes scare people away from testing, treatment, or talking openly about their experiences. By being educated and willing to listen, you can show your support simply by refusing to judge others and by speaking up when you hear someone else furthering the stigma.
Every Week Hundreds of People Get Hepatitis B. (2016). Health.ny.gov. Retrieved 25 August 2016, from https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2340/
Hepatitis B Treatments and drugs - Mayo Clinic. (2016). Mayoclinic.org. Retrieved 25 August 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-b/basics/treatment/con-20022210
Kukka, C. (2016). In Rural Villages Across India, an Everyday Hero Works to Eradicate Hepatitis B. HEP. Retrieved 25 August 2016, from https://www.hepmag.com/article/rural-villages-across-india-everyday-hero-works-eradicate-hepatitis-b
Kukka, C. (2016). One in Three People Worldwide Has Had Hepatitis B, So Why Do We Feel So Alone? - Hepatitis B Foundation. Hepatitis B Foundation. Retrieved 25 August 2016, from http://www.hepb.org/blog/one-in-three-people-worldwide-has-had-hepatitis-b-so-why-do-we-feel-so-alone/#more-5019