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Experts call for province-wide screening for Hepatitis B&C

KARACHI: Eminent Gastroenterologist and President of Pak GI and Liver Disease Society (PGLDS), Dr Sajjad Jamil, noted that Pakistan is the only country in the world where Hepatitis B and C infections were on the rise due to the reuse of syringes, poor infection control practices, lack of awareness & education, unsafe transfusion of blood, and use of unsterilized dental or surgical equipment.

He was speaking at an awareness session held at the Karachi Press Club (KPC). Estimates of 15 million people are infected with this deadly disease in Pakistan, he said. He demanded the screening of the entire population of Sindh and other provinces for hepatitis as well.

“Pakistan is faced with one of the highest new annual infection rates of hepatitis C virus and is launching a new infection control and injection safety plan on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day 2019 to stop transmission.

Unfortunately, the majority of the people infected with Hepatitis B and C are not even aware of the fact that they are infected with and carrying the viral disease. It is immensely important that every Pakistani is screened for Hepatitis B and C,” said Dr Sajjad Jamil.

He maintained that the elimination of Hepatitis C would require screening of the entire general population, which is challenging but could be optimized through first targeting subpopulations with higher prevalence and improving their linkage to treatment.

Patron of the PGLDS, Dr Shahid Ahmed, said that the message on the current World Hepatitis Day 2019 is very clear which is that every Pakistani needs to be screened for Hepatitis B and C so that those tested positive could be treated, saying that the treatment for viral hepatitis is now readily available and very cost-effective.

“We daily see patients with liver cirrhosis, which is the last stage of the liver disease, due to viral hepatitis. Hepatitis also leads to hepatocellular carcinoma or cancer of the liver, which is a serious illness, and in most cases, leads to death, if a liver transplant is not performed. The best solution to avoid the occurrence of these conditions is early screening and if the result is positive, start treatment at the earliest convenience,” Dr Shahid Ahmed maintained.

Leading Hepatologist, Dr Lubana Kamani, was of the opinion that Pakistan might develop into a “cirrhotic state” and Hepatitis C could evolve into the “second polio for Pakistan” if a mass awareness campaign is not carried out and the screening of the Pakistani population for hepatitis is not started immediately.

“Fortunately, Hepatitis B and C are now completely treatable and curable diseases. However, unfortunately, Pakistan is the only country in the world where new cases of hepatitis are on the rise alarmingly. Every pregnant woman in Pakistan should be screened for hepatitis to prevent its transmission to the baby,” she advised.

Registrar, Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS), Dr Amanullah Abbasi, and Head of the Gastroenterology Department, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC), Dr Nazish Butt, also called for screening of each and every person in Pakistan for Hepatitis B and C, saying that the infection was spreading by the people who were unaware of their disease, and this must be stopped at the earliest.

More than 100 journalists, their family members and employees of the Karachi Press Club (KPC) were screened for Hepatitis B and C at screening camp, organized by the PGLDS in collaboration with the Health Committee of Karachi Press Club (KPC).

Later, a walk was held in front of Karachi Press Club (KPC) which was attended by doctors, journalists and common people, who were carrying placards and banners inscribed with slogans and demands regarding Hepatitis B and C elimination from Pakistan.

July 31, 2019

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