LAHORE - Accounting for numerous deaths every year, Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection.

Global studies suggest that viral Hepatitis surpasses HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria in terms of deaths caused. Hence, the elimination of this fatal diseases has now been firmly put on the map by all global bodies led by the World Health Organization.

Viral hepatitis accounts for 1.34 million deaths per year and two thirds of all liver cancer deaths are caused by hepatitis B and C. Pakistan is a signatory to the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, where194 governments adopted WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which includes a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C by 2030.

Hepatitis B & C are known to be the deadliest of hepatitis strains causing long term liver damage, liver cancer and death. It is contracted through blood and serum contact often by the reuse of syringes, piercing, unhygienic tools for dentistry, at barbershops and salons.

Pakistan carries the world’s second largest burden of hepatitis C. In Pakistan, close to 20 million people are estimated to be living with Hepatitis B and C unaware. Hepatitis can stay dormant in the body for many years before symptoms begin to appear, but if untreated can lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer.

Hepatitis testing is simple and easy and can be carried out by an antibody prick test at a very low cost. If this test comes positive, the patient will have to get another blood test called PCR done to confirm the presence of Hepatitis B or C. Treatment for Hepatitis C was discovered in 2014 and is now increasingly available and affordable. The treatment is highly effective with 95% cure rates. Hence, it is imperative to generate awareness for active screening and testing against Hepatitis C so lives can be saved by timely treatment. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and precious lives will be lost.

A multi-tier approach is the need of the hour. Firstly, it is absolutely essential to impart medical education to healthcare professionals and spearheading awareness campaigns.

In addition, connecting the patients with care is integral to address the issue of rising hepatitis infections in Pakistan. We must start quest to find the missing millions and make Hepatitis elimination a reality by 2030.