Around 5 million Suspected Hepatitis ‘B’ Virus Carriers In Pakistan

KARACHI: The number of suspected hepatitis B carriers in Pakistan is approximately five million, disclosed Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Wasim Jafri while addressing a public awareness programme on World Hepatitis Day organised by AKUH.

Quoting the official data of World Health Organisation, he said that hepatitis B virus (HBV) is approximately 30 times more infectious than HIV and AIDS and around 300 to 350 million people worldwide carry the virus, whereas nearly two million people die from it annually.

“In Pakistan, the hepatitis B and C viruses are transmitted by the reused shaving blades of barbers and unsterilized syringes for intravenous or muscular injections by physicians, while other ways of transmission are using unsterilized instruments for piercings and dental treatment,” said Dr Jafri.

He said that HBV is commonly seen among Asian children as it can be passed from an infected mother to a baby and the high number of HBV carriers in Pakistan places an enormous burden on patients, their families as well as on the government and its resources. A large amount of money is spent on the treatment but limited priority is given to its prevention. Meanwhile, Pakistan has also seen a rise in patients with hepatitis C, he added.

“Vaccinations are the best way to prevent HBV, and the HBV vaccine provides 100 percent immunity against the infection. It can be given at any age but it is especially important that every newborn receives it,” said Dr Jafri adding that if a person has HBV, treatment is possible only if diagnosed in its early stage. “The treatment usually includes interferon injections and oral medications. Almost 80 percent of hepatitis C patients are curable if detected early, and its treatment also consists of a combination of interferon injections and capsules, which are quite expensive,” he said.

Consultant Gastroenterologist, AKUH, Dr Amna Subhan said that the word hepatitis refers to inflammation of the liver and inflammation is caused by one or more of five viruses, which are A, B, C, D or E. She said that while hepatitis A and E are water-borne diseases, transferred by drinking contaminated water or eating unhygienic food; HBV, hepatitis C and D are spread as a result of exposure to infected blood. “All these viruses can produce similar symptoms such as dark urine, excessive fatigue, vomiting, abdominal pain and yellowing of the eyes and skin,” she added.

Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Rustam Khan said that a patient with hepatitis A or E should take bed rest and avoid medicines that harm the liver such as paracetamol. He pointed out that hospitalisation is only necessary when a patient experiences continuous vomiting or when their jaundice becomes too intense.

Vaccines are currently only available for hepatitis A. The easiest way to avoid these two viruses completely is to drink boiled water and eat hygienic food, particularly in the summer and rainy seasons. “A timely diagnosis is essential, as once the process of cirrhosis, shrinking of liver, sets in, HBV and C become incurable,” said Dr Khan.

Source: Daily Times

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