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FOREWORD Table of Contents   
Year : 2004  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 5-6

Fox Chase Cancer Center, 7701 Burholme Ave., Philadelphia PA 19111, USA

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How to cite this article:
Blumberg BS. Foreword. Hep B Annual 2004;1:5-6

How to cite this URL:
Blumberg BS. Foreword. Hep B Annual [serial online] 2004 [cited 2024 Feb 21];1:5-6. Available from: https://www.hepatitisbannual.org/text.asp?2004/1/1/5/27914

I am very pleased to contribute this Foreword to the Hepatitis B Annual that will be released on the Hepatitis B Eradication Day (28 July 2004) at S.C.B. Medical College, Cuttack, India. This is the 4th in the series of HBV Eradiation Days and the content of the program indicates how well hepatitis control is advancing. In 1986 I was privileged to visit India as the Raman Professor at the Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) under the auspices of the Indian Academy of Science. During the three months that I served in this post I had an opportunity to travel to many parts of India, see the urban and agricultural areas of high HBV endemicity, and discuss the problems of HBV and other infectious diseases with my colleagues. I met Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and other Government officials concerning hepatitis programs and the production of blood derived and recombinant HBV vaccine. My observations and suggestions for action were incorporated in a report sent to the office of the Prime Minister.

At the time of my visit, the program was in its beginning phases. Everywhere I went I encountered scientists, physicians and public health workers engaged with the hepatitis problem; laboratory, clinical, and field studies were in progress. But extensive control programs were not yet in place. Disposable needles were in short supply, testing of donor blood in transfusion centers was not widespread, the vaccine was not generally available, and the extent of the public health problem was recognized only in broad outline. Due to the efforts of many of you participating in this program, and your colleagues elsewhere in India, there has been improvement in all of these categories. Public awareness is growing, HBV vaccine has been incorporated into the Expanded Program of Immunization and the program has been executed in many states and Union Territories. Donor blood is screened in many locations, and disposable needles are widely available. But, the program is far from complete and the Eradication Day project has had and will have a beneficial effect on the furtherance of the effort.

The disease load imposed by HBV is enormous. Dr. Sharat C. Misra of the Talwar Medical Center in Delhi during a visit to Philadelphia in 2002 provided data on the extent of this load. There are more than 40 million people chronically infected with HBV. Next to China, this is the largest number in any country. More than 4 million of those infected have chronic liver disease that can be life shortening. Many others will develop disease as they age. HBV is the fifth most common cause of death in India in the age category 15-45 years.

During the time I visited India, the first cases of AIDS were reported. The prevalence of AIDS has increased greatly and it is now one of the major problems in India. Although treatment is available, it is expensive. Unfortunately, there is as yet no vaccine to prevent HIV infection. This makes the prevention and control of HIV difficult. A vaccine for HBV has been available for about 20 years and along with other preventive methods one can hope that HBV could be under effective control in a relatively short time; as we know, there is even the possibility of eradication. These measures would be a great blessing to the country and can remove a disease burden that has hindered development and the full enjoyment of health and life for many in India.

For the public, preventive medicine is much less spectacular than therapeutic medicine. In the latter, there is the clear evidence of the sick restored to health. In preventive medicine, if all works well, people who might have become ill do not do so; but its effect is demonstrated by statistics rather than personal experience. Public health programs seek to increase understanding of prevention and eradication and to apply the appropriate vaccinations and other measures.

I treasure the time that I have spent in India and the ongoing collaborations I have had with Indian colleagues. It was my hope that the work of my colleagues and I on hepatitis would, in time, have a beneficial effect on the health of India; this volume is a mark of the progress that has been made. I greatly appreciate that the event is held on my birthday, July 28th. I know that my parents would have been very pleased.

Correspondence Address:
Baruch S Blumberg
Fox Chase Cancer Center, 7701 Burholme Ave., Philadelphia PA 19111
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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