The number of patients suffering from Hepatitis C virus (HCV) disease continues to rise and the disease is becoming a major health problem, as Pakistan has the world’s second highest prevalence of hepatitis C, second only to Egypt.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) data, an estimated 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The WHO Global hepatitis report, 2017 indicates that the large majority of these people lacks access to life-saving testing and treatment.
As a result, millions of people are at risk of a slow progression to chronic liver disease, cancer, and death. Without rapid intervention to contain the spread of the disease, the death rate from hepatitis C will surpass that from AIDS.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Polyclinic Blood Bank Head Dr Sharif Astori said that the HCV disease witnessed an alarming increase and could cause an epidemic like situation if urgent preventive measures were not taken.
Hepatitis is typically characterized by a disease of the liver. It ranges from curable liver infections in some to liver cancer in others. Hepatitis B and C are the most common types of hepatitis, affecting millions of Pakistanis each year. Countries with high rates of people chronically infected with Hepatitis C are Egypt (22%), Pakistan (4.8%) and China (3.2%).
Along with the rest of the world, Pakistan observed the World Hepatitis Day every year aimed at raising awareness about prevention, control and treatment of the deadly disease, but ironically the number of patients suffering from the disease is constantly growing, which is quite shocking.
According to information obtained from Polyclinic, over 2,000 Hepatitis C patients sought treatment at the hospital during the last 12 months. As a total of 2,059 tested positive with Hepatitis C.
Owing to lack of preventive measures and treatment facilities, hepatitis prevalence in Pakistan is the highest on the globe, as 5 lac hepatitis patients die annually, while over 400 people loose life to hepatitis every day.
According to WHO, about 8 million people are exposed to hepatitis C virus in Pakistan. The information obtained from Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) revealed that around two and half thousand Hepatitis C patients sought treatment at the hospital every year. During the current year, 2,300 new Hepatitis C patients started receiving treatment from the hospital.
Similarly, out of a total 4556 health blood donor in Polyclinic, 177 donors were diagnosed with Hepatitis C. He said that the most of the people unaware of their disease and could not test or else the number could be increase alarmingly.
Astori said that the main reasons for prevalence of hepatitis are unscreened blood transfusions, reuse of needles and syringes and sharing of needles by drug addicts. Besides he said that the use of unsterilised surgical and dental instruments, roadside dentists and barbers.
About the preventive measures, Astori said that people should avoid administration of unnecessary injections, drips, and should follow careful dental treatment, proper disposal of clinical waste, surgeries and use only screened blood for transfusion and avoid roadside dentists.
Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, State Minister for Capital Administration and Development Davison (CADD) could not be reached for his comments on the issue.
A senior official in the Ministry said that that the government was well-aware of the importance of the diseases because Pakistan has an estimated 12 million cases of hepatitis.