Tuesday September 21, 2021

Coordinated strategies to control hepatitis stressed

July 29, 2021

LAHORE:Medical experts again describing hepatitis as a major threat to public health in the country have stressed the need to control it immediately through coordinated strategies and concerted efforts.

Addressing a seminar on World Hepatitis Day at the University of Health Sciences(UHS) on Wednesday, UHS Vice-Chancellor Prof Javed Akram said that the number of deaths due to hepatitis was much higher than due to coronavirus. "Coronavirus has made people realise the importance of vaccination. As a result, there is hope for new vaccines against hepatitis," he opined. The seminar was organised by the UHS Department of Public Health and hosted by its assistant professor Dr Shehnoor Azhar.

Rashid Latif Medical College Principal Professor Aftab Mohsin said that the last case of smallpox in Pakistan was reported in 1974 and, unfortunately, this was the starting point of hepatitis C. He said the law on unsafe use of syringes was being drafted in 2010 and did not come out even in 2021.

He said hepatitis C killed 410 people every day in the country. The veteran gastroenterologist called the current situation catastrophic and resolved that he would raise the issue with President of Pakistan Dr Arif Alvi on July 30 in Islamabad.

Dr Fatima Mukhtar, head of the UHS Public Health department, said Pakistan was the second largest country in the world in terms of number of hepatitis C patients. Prof Arif Siddiqui, head, Department of Gastroenterology, PKLI, Lahore, said that every pregnant woman should be screened for hepatitis B and C to prevent transmission of the virus to the newborns. He said C-section operation did not reduce the chances of transmitting the hepatitis virus to a newborn.

Punjab Hepatitis Programme Program Manager Dr Khalid Mahmood said the number of hepatitis C patients in the province was 9 million. He said efforts were being made to control spread of the disease through macro and micro-elimination methods and special initiatives.

Professor Kashif Malik, head of the Gastroenterology Department, Sheikh Zayed Hospital Lahore, said 225,000 new cases of hepatitis were reported in Pakistan every year. He proposed that like Covid-19, a national database be developed for hepatitis patients. Moreover, hepatitis B vaccination should be made mandatory for every child before enrolling in school.

Dr Jamshed Ahmed, head of the Punjab office of the World Health Organization, said use of unsafe syringes in Pakistan was 14 per cent. Dr Shah Jahan, associate professor at UHS Immunology Department, highlighted the methods of diagnosing hepatitis.