Eliminating Hepatitis

WORLD Hepatitis Day was observed across the country on Saturday with the aim to promote awareness amongst the people about the disease that affects the liver. In connection with the day Shifa International Hospital also launched ‘Find the Missing Millions’, an awareness campaign to educate, influence national testing policies and encourage people to get screened and become advocates in the quest to find the undiagnosed.
Pakistan is second largest country in the world having highest rate of hepatitis patients. Given this rise of viral hepatitis, the campaign launched by the hospital is indeed significant and a step in the right direction to bring much needed attention to the fact that millions of people are living with Viral Hepatitis unaware. The campaign should also be augmented by all public and private health institutions in the country to inspire and educate people to opt for screening and diagnosis. The disease is known as ‘silent killer’ because of its indolent course, with an asymptomatic phase, lasting for many years. When symptomatic, the Hepatitis B and C can rapidly progress to liver cirrhosis, a condition resulting from irreversible liver damage and ultimately to liver cancer.
The definitive cure at this stage is liver transplant, a treatment that is beyond the reach of most Pakistanis, owing to its very high cost. Major risk factors for the transmission of hepatitis B and C infection include therapeutic injections, syringe reuse, surgery, improper sterilisation of invasive medical devices, blood transfusion, hospitalisation and sharing razors while getting shaved from barbers. Some population groups are highly affected by hepatitis B and hepatitis C such as injecting drug users and thalassemia patients. Prevention is the key to success and education is the basic step towards curbing hepatitis. This would include educating health personnel to abandon unnecessary injection practices, aptitude of staff on safe injection practices and effective sharp and waste management.
In recent years, effective treatment regimens have been introduced for hepatitis C, with a cure rate of above 95%. But viral hepatitis B and C are fatal disease, if left untreated. Effective strategies including preventive measures and treatment can help in reducing and eventually eliminating the disease from the country. Abuse of medicines and quackery must be checked and eliminated as well to control hepatitis and a number of other life-threatening ailments.

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