LAHORE - Pakistan, where every 10th person is believed to be suffering from viral hepatitis, is the second among the most affected countries, said Dr Muhammad Qayyum Khan, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre.

Dr Qayyum cited unavailability of vaccine, unscreened blood transfusion, use of improper surgical and dental instruments and reuse of needles and syringes, as the main reasons for spread of hepatitis.

He explained the two types of hepatitis – one is short-lived that is hepatitis A and E and are usually spread through contaminated water and food, and vanished in 6-8 weeks by itself and the other is hepatitis B and C that are mainly spread through blood.  “However, no person can be infected with hepatitis B or C by shaking hands, hugging, kissing, using same toilet, breastfeeding, sharing food and water with a patient,” said Dr Qayyum.

He said the symptoms of hepatitis are fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, dark urine, bright stools and depression. He added both hepatitis B and C are silent viruses and many people fell prey to it because they can’t recognise the symptoms. “If left untreated, the hepatitis B and C viruses can lead to liver scarring, ascites, bleeding, coma, liver cancer, liver failure and death. Therefore, it is important to get tested as soon as possible,” he stressed. Dr Qayyum said adults who are infected with Hepatitis B virus can recover completely within six months, whereas in case of hepatitis C, specific drugs are given for 2-3 years as it takes long time for the infected person to get recovered. He suggested public awareness through mass media.  He asserted that quackery that is the major reason for the spread of hepatitis, must be halted at all costs. Hospitals should maintain the international standards of cleanliness, concluded Dr Qayyum.