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April 27, 2019

Hepatitis C can become as big a challenge as polio in Pakistan, warn experts


April 27, 2019

Pakistan can turn into a “cirrhotic state” and Hepatitis C can become 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.

The 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 hotel in Karachi.

National and unternational experts from Azerbaijan, several European and Middle Eastern countries as well as from different cities of Pakistan and leading universities and healthcare facilities in Pakistan are attending the three-day international moot to discuss new approaches to treatment and prevention from 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 Dr Lubna Kamani feared that Hepatitis C could become 2nd polio for Pakistan as country, saying polio had been eradicated from the 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, the 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 the disease has 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 the actual number of patients with viral hepatitis so that they could be treated.

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

“Hepatitis B transmission from the mother to children can be prevented if woman who test positive for the viral disease starts treatment,” he said and added that patients having Hepatitis B treatment could avail all the surgical treatment and had dental procedures 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. He added that the key to eliminating the viral hepatitis from Pakistan was its early diagnosis and treatment from 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 programme to ascertain the burden of this disease and a joint strategy to wipe it out from the country.”

Dr Jameel Ahmed, professor of medicine from Baqai Medical University, spoke on the issue of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and said 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.”

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