Sunday September 26, 2021

Health experts call hepatitis B and C bigger killers than Covid-19 in country

Health experts call hepatitis B and C bigger killers than Covid-19 in country

Pakistan needs to screen 90 per cent of its population for hepatitis B and C, and treat 80 per cent of those found infected as they are infecting around 150,000 people annually in the country.

Health experts at an awareness session in connection with World Hepatitis Day 2021 on Tuesday termed the current hepatitis B and C situation ‘a pandemic within a pandemic’, which was killing three to four times more people on a daily basis in Pakistan compared to Covid-19.

They claimed that 300 to 325 people were dying daily due to complications of viral hepatitis in Pakistan compared to damages caused by the novel coronavirus. They called for giving equal importance to elimination of viral hepatitis from the country.

“Hepatitis is three to four times more lethal viral infection in Pakistan where around 300 to 325 are dying daily due to complications of hepatitis B and C. on the other hand, the Covid-19 deaths hardly cross the figure of 100 in single day so there is a need to have an equal focus on the prevention, screening and treatment of hepatitis B and C in Pakistan,” Dr Lubna Kamani, president of Pakistan GI and Liver Diseases Society (PGLDS), told the awareness session.

A screening camp, awareness session and walk were organised by the PGLDS in collaboration with the Karachi Press Club (KPC) health committee on the eve of World Hepatitis Day 2021, which is observed on July 28 every year to stress the need for eliminating hepatitis from the world by 2030.

Over 150 journalists, their family members and employees of the KPC were screened for hepatitis B and C at the screening camp while gastroenterologists and hepatologists associated with the PGLDS highlighted the menace of hepatitis in Pakistan as well as ways and means for its prevention and elimination.

“Hepatitis B and C are blood borne diseases, which means that they are spread through exchange of infected blood by using infected syringes, IV drips, unsterilised equipment used by dentists, needles for piercing, etc. People should avoid getting injections and IV drips as much as possible,” Dr Lubna said.

Another leading gastroenterologist associated with Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Dr Nazish Butt, said hepatitis B and C were silent killers and if a person was infected with either of the virus, it remained silent in the body for years while damaging the liver.

“The hepatitis B and C infection only comes to the knowledge of an infected person, when they are screened for some surgery or procedure or their liver is damaged to an extent where nothing can be done for them,” Dr Nazish, who is also the PGLDS vice president, remarked.

She added that the government should launch mass screenings of hepatitis B and C in the country to ascertain its true burden. Patron of the PGLDS Prof Dr Shahid Ahmed, head of gastroenterology department at the Darul Sehat Hospital, said awareness about hepatitis B and C was the key to its prevention and treatment. He added that hepatitis was now a treatable viral infection and dozens of NGOs and government health facilities were not only screening people for viral hepatitis but also providing free medicines for treatment.

Other experts, including Dr Amanullah Abbassi from the Dow University of Health Sciences and Dr Sajjad Jamil from the Liaquat National Hospital, said awareness about hepatitis and other factors detrimental to the liver was very low in society.

They urged the media to play its role in highlighting the preventive measures as well as vaccination against hepatitis B, Covid-19 and other vaccine-preventable diseases. They urged the government to launch mass screening drives in cities as well as in rural areas of the country, saying 90 percent of the country's population needed to be screened.