Need awareness about higher Covid-19 risks due to comorbidities: Vardhan

Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan

While the mortality rate due to Covid-19 is approximately 2 to 3 per cent, most cases of the contagious disease are largely asymptomatic, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said while stressing on the need to create awareness about the higher risk of both morbidity and mortality due to the virus in people who have conditions like diabetes, obesity, fatty liver and chronic liver diseases.

Vardhan said theAyushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres are working for the screening of such conditions.He was addressing the '2nd Empathy e-Conclave'on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, a health ministry statement stated.

The event was organised by the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) in collaboration with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) to create awareness among parliamentarians.

The health minister said the pre-emptive and proactive measures taken under the guidance of the Prime Minister have helped control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He also said Hepatitis has become a global health problem. Viral Hepatitis is a very common and serious disease in India but is virtually unknown to health care providers and the general public, Vardhan said whileemphasising on the requirement to generate mass awareness and community mobilisation on the issue.

"Individuals with viral B and C hepatitis are at increased risk for liver cancer and chronic liver disease, yet an estimated 80 percent of persons with chronic viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected. The mantra to educating people is 'Talk, Test & Treat' and I appeal to all participants especially from industries, NGOs and other fraternity to support ILBS in this campaign," he was quoted as saying in the statement.

"I request all my colleagues present here to act as a Champion/Ambassador in spreading awareness about the silent epidemics of Hepatitis B and C and help remove the stigma attached to these diseases," he said.

On the contribution of ILBS,Vardhan said itis a WHO collaborative centre. It helped in the development of the National Viral Hepatitis Program which was launched on July 28, 2018, the statement said, adding that it is the largest program for Hepatitis B and C diagnosis and treatment in the world.

Vardhan also congratulated Team ILBS for their "tireless efforts" in the fight against the ongoing pandemic by testing SARS-Cov-2 samples for the last four months.

It's indeed been a matter of pride that the country's first Plasma Bank was made functional at ILBS. Plasma warriors have been selfless contributors helping in improving Recovery Rate in India, he said.

Inaugurating the Conclave, Lok Speaker Om Birla said, We are committed to the WHO goals of elimination of Hepatitis C and of reducing the burden of Hepatitis B by 2030. We, as the representatives of people of India, have a larger responsibility of spreading awareness in people about this disease so as to make this a Jan Andolan.

Dr SK Sarin, Director, ILBS made a presentation and highlighted the importance of healthy liver and features of 'Empowering People Against Hepatitis: The Empathy Campaign' by ILBS in partnership with AAI, undertaking several innovative initiatives across the country and reaching out to diverse populations.

At the end of the event, all participants took a pledge of 'Healthy Liver Healthy India' by committing to care for the liver even during the Covid-19 pandemic and spreading the same message to at least ten people.

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