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Consistent Screening, Vaccination can reduce Hepatitis B & C burden in Pakistan – Medical Experts

KARACHI–  Cases of Hepatitis B and C, their complications, and number of deaths occurring from it have significantly increased. Approximately, 20 to 25 percent population is infected with this deadly viral disease, while in some areas of the province including Gadap, Kathore, coastal areas of Sindh, around 30 to 35 percent people have been found infected with viral hepatitis. Every 5th death in Sindh is caused by this disease or its associated complications.

Speaking at a meeting to mark the World Digestive Health Day 2018 (WDHD 18), organized by Pakistan GI and Liver Diseases (PGLDS), leading gastroenterologists and hepatologists stated that, at least 20 million people in Pakistan are infected with Hepatitis B and C, which amounts to 10 percent of the population, highest being in Sindh.

Dr. Shahid Ahmed, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Patron PGLDS stated that, World Health Organization (WHO) has set the target of elimination of Hepatitis B and C from the world by 2030 but, keeping in view the state of affairs in Pakistan, especially in Sindh, it seems to be a far cry. Both, Government and private sector would have to make collaborative efforts to contain and eradicate this menace, as nowadays it is easy to screen, diagnose and treat viral hepatitis, and is cost effective.

Moreover, he discussed regarding the lack of awareness, as most patients of viral hepatitis are not aware of their illness, until its gets into chronic stage and badly damages their livers. If screened and diagnosed earlier, these patients can be properly treated and viruses of Hepatitis B and C can be eliminated from their bodies. He and his team offered complete support in this regard.

President, PGLDS Dr. Sajjad Jamil mentioned that, Pakistan had the 2nd highest number of viral hepatitis patients after China but, added that China has now reduced the number of Hepatitis B patients to only 1 percent through affective vaccination. Alongside other treatments, tablets are available that can cure this disease up to 99 percent, with very little side effects. He also emphasized upon creating awareness amongst our society.

Gastroenterologist, Dr. Lubna Kamanai, demanded the government to seek Hepatitis Screening Certificate at the time of issuance of Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC), so that the Government could assess the actual number of patients infected with viral hepatitis within the country. Free of charge screening camps of Hepatitis B and C in Pakistan should be arranged by the Government and health authorities.

Lastly, Dr. Amanullah Abbassi claimed that the Government of Sindh had not winded up the Hepatitis Control Program, and that Agha Khan University Hospital and other NGOs are working for the elimination of viral hepatitis from the province.

 

June 6, 2018

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