Pakistan sixth largest hepatitis infected country: experts


KARACHI: In order to spread awareness about different types of hepatitis, Ziauddin University organised an interactive seminar “Prevent Hepatitis: It’s up to you”, to mark the World Hepatitis Day. The seminar focused on the barriers in hepatitis cure and the importance of screening and early diagnosis.

“The prevention of hepatitis through capacity building and training should be the objective” exclaimed Dr Zaigham Abbas, Head of Gastroenterology, Ziauddin University. He stated that Pakistan is the world’s sixth largest country with a moderate to high level hepatitis infection rates and one of the highest viremic HCV infections. The prevalence of hepatitis B is around 2.5% and hepatitis C is 4.8% in the country.

Dr Abbas also delivered a WHO framework for development of an effective hepatitis prevention and control program with a focus on educating the masses, improving health care systems and creating political interest in the initiative. A need for training for the medical staff for early detection of hepatitis and a need to eradicate the negative taboo associated with hepatitis were also highlighted.

With the current statistics of a combined pool of 1.5m of hepatitis B and C in the country, around 1 hepatitis related death is experienced every 5 minutes. Lastly, some risk factors for HBV and HCV infections were pointed out mainly unsafe blood transfusions, reuse of syringes, injections and use of non sterilized equipments. If the health systems are improved, the risk factors can be countered. A need of the time to establish a hepatitis reference centre with an installed hepatitis registry, a mobile screening system and a national hepatitis control committee and to strengthen the HEPAID, Dr Abbas said.

“Awareness of the time to start and end the treatment is an important factor in hepatitis B”, indicated Dr Muhammad Nasir Laique, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, Dr Ziauddin Hospital. He stated that worldwide there are around 240 million chronically infected people, mainly in low and middle income countries. Around 20-30% of those who become chronically infected will develop and an estimated 65,000 will die of these diseases. The goal of the therapy for this disease should be to prevent progression of the disease to cirrhosis, end stage liver disease, HCC and death. In case of high risk of liver failure the treatment needs to be initiated immediately he stated.

“With an estimated 170 million people affected with HCV infection worldwide, new developments in the treatment of HCV were inevitable” stated Dr Saeed S. Hamid, President, Pakistan Society for Study of Liver Disease. “Around 4.25m and 8.16m are affected by HBV and HCV respectively in Pakistan”, he pointed. He also discussed the directly acting anti-virals and interferon free regimens and indirectly acting anti-virals respectively.

“The chronic liver disease should be managed with utmost care” stated Dr Rana Qamar Masood, Director, National Institute of Liver & GI Diseases, Dow University of Health Sciences. The management of chronic liver diseases and mechanism of portal hypertension was discussed in depth.

Dr Aijaz Fatima praised the speakers for their valuable contribution in the field of medicine and urged the teachers, students, scholars, and media to play their positive role in raising awareness and educate people about the deadly disease. She also stressed on the individual efforts to get rid of this fatal disease.

The event was attended by large number of participants including medical students, doctors, paramedical staff from different universities and hospitals, NGOs, and social activists.