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Health

Web Desk
April 26, 2019

Hepatitis C may be second polio for Pakistan, warn experts

Health

Web Desk
Fri, Apr 26, 2019

KARACHI: Pakistan may be turned into a “cirrhotic state” and Hepatitis C may be second polio for the country if we don’t start mass awareness and screening of our population of the viral hepatitis, which is now a completely treatable and curable disease. Every pregnant woman in Pakistan should be screened for viral hepatitis to prevent its transmission to the baby.

World is planning to eliminate Hepatitis-C by 2030 but in Pakistan we don’t even know the actual number of patients with viral hepatitis. Two to three family members of a newly diagnosed patient are also tested positive for Hepatitis C and/or B, which show the gravity of the situation. Joint efforts by the government, private sector, media and people are required to eliminate viral hepatitis from Pakistan.

This was stated by leading gastroenterologists and hepatologists while speaking at the second Annual Conference of Pak GI and Liver Disease Society (PGLDS) being held here at a local hotel in Karachi.

National and International experts from Azerbaijan, several European and Middle-Eastern countries as well as different cities of Pakistan and leading Universities and healthcare facilities in Pakistan are attending the three-day international moot to discuss new approaches in treatment and prevention of diseases of stomach, intestines, liver, viral infections of liver and other ailments.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the conference on “Hepatitis C in Special Population”, eminent gastroenterologist from Liaquat National Hospital Karachi Dr. Lubna Kamani feared that Hepatitis C could become second polio for Pakistan, saying polio had been eradicated from entire world except Pakistan and Afghanistan while other countries were also planning to eradicate Hepatitis C by 2030.

“Hepatitis C is now very much treatable disease while Hepatitis B can be prevented through vaccination but unfortunately, majority of people in our country are not even aware that they are infected with lethal viruses. Most of the patients only approach physicians when disease is progressed to alarming stages”, she added.

Calling for finding the missing million patients with Hepatitis Band C in Pakistan, Dr. Kamani said hundreds of people were daily dying in Pakistan due to complications of viral hepatitis and other diseases of liver and gastrointestinal tract and urged the authorities to launch an immediate campaign to ascertain actual number of patients with viral hepatitis so that they could be treated.

Another leading gastroenterologist and Patron of the PGLDs Dr. Shahid Ahmed said every pregnant woman in Pakistan should be screened for Hepatitis B and if she is tested positive, she should immediately start treatment so that virus could not be transmitted to her child.

“Hepatitis B transmission from mother to children can be prevented if women who are tested positive for the viral disease start treatment”, Dr. Shahid said and added that patients having Hepatitis B treatment could avail all the surgical treatment and have dental procedure without any complications.

Speaking about children infected with Hepatitis B, he maintained that safe drugs were now available in Pakistan to treat and cure children and added that key to elimination of the viral hepatitis from Pakistan was its early diagnosis and treatment by qualified physicians.

“There are roughly five to seven million people infected with Hepatitis B in Pakistan and they are infecting thousands of healthy people due to ignorance. We need a country-wide mass screening program to ascertain the burden of this disease and a joint strategy to wipe it out from the country”, he added.

Dr. Jameel Ahmed, Prof. of Medicine from Baqai Medical University spoke on the issue of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and informed that weight loss through exercise, diet control and living an active life could prevent people from fatty liver disease, which later converts into chronic liver disease and other fatal complications.

Prof. Dr. Gulnara from Azerbaijan spoke about Hepatitis D prevalence in the world including Pakistan and claimed that it was the most lethal of all types of viral hepatitis. “Patients with Hepatitis D have liver cirrhosis quite earlier as compared to those with Hepatitis B and C”, Dr. Gulnara maintaianed.

Several other speakers including Dr. Bader Faiyaz Zuberi, Dr. Amanullah Abbassi, Dr. Nazish Butt, Dr. Sajjad Jamil, Dr. Hafeezullah as well as speakers from healthcare facilties in other cities of the country also spoke on the occasion.