World Hepatitis Day was observed on July 28 and this year’s anti-hepatitis campaign theme is: It’s closer than you think. About 500 million people worldwide – one in 12 – are infected with chronic viral hepatitis B or C. Pakistan is currently home to 15 to 18 million patients suffering from Hepatitis B and C. One out of every 10 Pakistanis suffers from either type of hepatitis. Unsafe drinking water which causes Hepatitis A and E, unscreened blood transfusions and used syringes have made hepatitis one of Pakistan’s greatest health concerns. Current estimated prevalence of Hepatitis B is 3-4 percent and Hepatitis C is 4.8 percent. If not cured in time, Hepatitis B and C can be fatal.

Chronic Hepatitis B is curable and can be treated effectively with third-generation drugs, but prevention is better and possible. Unfortunately, in Pakistan we have failed to take any solid measures for the control and prevention of hepatitis, and the majority of the population still relies on superstitious “cures” and believes in myths. When someone is infected with Hepatitis B or C, the patient goes to pirs, faqirs, maulvis and hakeems for “treatment”. Pakistan needs a high-profile awareness-raising campaign to educate people on how to prevent and control the disease and receive the right treatment. Social media is an important tool and can be used to undermine superstitions and myths related to Hepatitis B and C in Pakistan.

Dr Saifur Rehman,

Islamabad, July 29.