Wednesday September 22, 2021

Screening urged to protect from hepatitis

July 28, 2021

LAHORE:As an estimated 12 million people in Pakistan are said to be suffering from hepatitis B or C, the WHO has set ambitious targets for eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, which means a 90 per cent reduction in incidence and a 65 pc reduction in mortality compared with a 2015 baseline.

The World Hepatitis Day 2021 will be commemorated today (July 28) around the world, including Pakistan, under this year’s theme of “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”, which calls upon the countries to act on viral hepatitis even during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic because, somewhere in the world, someone dies every 30 seconds from a hepatitis-related illness. All stakeholders will need to make coordinated and sustained efforts to achieve the targets.

Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCH&RC) CMO Dr Muhammed Aasim Yusuf, who is also a consultant gastroenterologist, said the word hepatitis referred to inflammation of the liver, resulting in variable degrees of impairment of the functions of the liver. While there are various causes of hepatitis, including drugs, alcohol and obesity, the commonest cause, worldwide, is infection with one or more of the hepatitis viruses - hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. While each of these can cause hepatitis and serious liver disease, it is important to understand that they have different modes of transmission, cause different patterns of disease and require different means of prevention. Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted by infected blood and body fluids, and required special attention because they often lead to prolonged illness and severe progressive liver damage, known as chronic hepatitis.

This can progress to an irreversible stage of advanced liver disease, known as liver cirrhosis, which can lead to, in some cases, liver cancer and/or liver failure and death. Unfortunately, over one million people are still dying annually from viral hepatitis each year, despite the availability of a vaccine for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C. The reasons for this are lack of awareness, screening programmes, paucity of treatment facilities, inability to afford treatment and an ongoing cycle of infection caused in large part by unsafe injection practices, transfusion of unscreened blood and unsafe surgical and dental practices.