KARACHI: “We are living in a very alarming condition where the “Hepatitis belt” is increasing at an alarming rate in Pakistan which includes areas like Southern Punjab, Northern Sindh, Upper Sindh district, and the adjunct regions of Baluchistan. In Punjab, a large number of people are living with viral Hepatitis C type. It is the most common type of hepatitis amongst the people of province Punjab”, said Prof Zaigham Abbas, Head of the Department of Gastroenterology, Ziauddin University, and Hospital.
He was addressing the audience in an interactive public awareness session themed “Find the Missing Millions” to mark World Hepatitis Day at the Dr Ziauddin Hospital. Prof Zaigham Abbas focused on the hurdles in hepatitis cure and the importance of screening and early diagnosis in his informative lecture.
“In Pakistan, 4.8% cases of hepatitis C have been exposed which means around 9500000 – 10000000 people are suffering from hepatitis C. Moreover 2.5% population is suffering from hepatitis B which means in Pakistan, we have approximately 5 million people who have been diagnosed with hepatitis B,” Prof Abbas further stated.
According to Prof Abbas, Pakistan is the country where unluckily all five types of hepatitis viruses are present. Hepatitis virus directly attacks the patient’s liver and if the liver does not work properly, there are many chances that the patient will suffer from diseases such as ascites (fluid in the abdomen), portal hypertension (increase blood pressure in liver sinusoids), cirrhosis (shrunken liver), liver cancer, and kidney failure. To keep our selves safe from viral hepatitis, we should avoid using unsterilized equipment, used syringes, and shaving razors, and avoid touching blood drops of other hepatitis victims.
Dr Khurram Baqai, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Dr Ziauddin Hospital, stressed on the need for preventive measures to control this epidemic in Pakistan. He stated that there is a need for case finding and proper management of patients. The majority of the people endure this infection in healthcare settings without being aware of it. The disease is called a silent killer because many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated for many years before developing complications and dying.
“According to the WHO, an estimated 20 million deaths occurred globally between 2015 and 2030. We need to end this hepatitis-related taboo. We can do this by training medical staff on early detection of the disease and by providing proper guidelines to the public”, says Capt (R) S Waqar Hussain, Registrar, Ziauddin University.
Earlier, an awareness walk was organized to sensitize the public about the disease.