LAHORE/KARACHI  -  Like other parts of the globe, the World Hepatitis Day was observed across the country on Sunday to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, precautionary measures and treatment.

In Lahore, with the day falling on a holiday, public sector and private health institutions carried out the rituals of holding seminars, workshops and free camps on Saturday. As such no institution organised any event on the day designated by WHO to raise public awareness about the menace of viral hepatitis.

According to reports, Pakistan is facing an epidemic of Hepatitis. National prevalence of Hepatitis B is 2.4 percent and Hepatitis C is 4.9 percent. Currently, there are an estimated 16 million persons infected by this disease. Main reasons for the spread of this disease are frequent use of therapeutic injections, reuse of syringes, inappropriate sterilisation practices and hospital waste management system. Pakistan Medical and Research Council conducted a national population survey to find actual prevalence of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C in Pakistan in 2007.

In survey about 47,043 persons screened, of whom the Hepatitis B prevalence came as 2.4% and Hepatitis C at 4.9%, making an aggregate of 7.4%.  This comes to an estimated number of exposures to the population of 12 million.

If we look at provincial situations then Hepatitis B prevalence comes to 2.5%, 2.4%, 1.3% and 4.3% in Sindh, Punjab, KPK and Balochistan respectively. While figures for Hepatitis C were 5%, 6.7%, 1.1% and 1.5% in Sindh, Punjab, KPK and Balochistan respectively. The prevalence varied greatly in between the districts of each province with some districts showing high Hepatitis B figures while others showed high Hepatitis C figures.

Frequent use of injections (30% population taking more than 10 injections per person per year) and reuse of syringes, showed strong association of Hepatitis C infections. Using scientific tools, WHO identified a total of 30 districts showing very high prevalence for Hepatitis B and C. These are the districts where WHO in collaboration with the Provincial Hepatitis Control Programmes will work to stop the spread of this infection.

High number of injections has been found to be the commonest source of spreading the disease apart from reuse of syringes. Improper sterilisation and unsafe blood transfusion also stood out as the common sources of disease spread.

In Karachi, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) Director Prof Adib Rizvi has said there are about 15 million people suffering from Hepatitis B and C in Pakistan. He was speaking at a health awareness seminar regarding Hepatitis B at SIUT on Sunday.

Dr Rizvi said the prevalence of Hepatitis B and C is around 2.5 percent and 4.8 percent respectively. He stressed a comprehensive effort by the government is urgently required to prevent death of millions. Dr Zaigham Abbass of Gastroenterology Department presented the mode of spread of viral Hepatitis. The Hepatitis refers to group of diseases caused by infection from one of the five viruses – Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E.

The experts highlighted the need to spread awareness among people, preventive measures and timely treatment of the disease.

Hepatitis A and E are spread by oral fecal route while B and C are spread by blood. The usual mode of transmission of Hepatitis B and C is high due to getting treatment by injections and drips. The equipments are not properly sterilised and reuse of syringes by quakes is also a major issue.

Justice (r) Rana Bhagwan Das was the chief guest while Faisal Edhi also addressed the occasion. They stressed on the need to involve the community by raising awareness, promoting partnership and mobilising resources.

Agha Khan University’s Dr Saeed Hamid said although there are vaccines for Hepatitis B and a new treatment for Hepatitis C is also available that would save millions of lives but the government is not seeming tending to avail them. “The government of Sindh is making effort to deal with this problem by implementing Hepatitis control programmes,” stated Project Manager of Hepatitis Prevention Dr Ayaz Ali Memon.

The theme of World Hepatitis Day was ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’. The message imparted from the theme is that Hepatitis is being ignored around the world and there is need for change.

Dr Farina Hanif of SIUT explained the theme of World Hepatitis Day. “It refers to those who deal with the problem by refusing to acknowledge them. This theme was chosen to highlight that Hepatitis is being ignored around the world. The SIUT participated in an attempt to break the world record. Around 200 people gathered on DFMC roof top and joined the global effort to spread the Hepatitis awareness by performing the the message of the awareness drive. The event was led by Dr Syed Mujahid Hassan.