Health experts Thursday said that Viral Hepatitis, both the Acute and Chronic Hepatitis are a major cause of death worldwide, accounting for more than 1.3 million deaths.
They were addressing a seminar here organized by Pakistan Society of study of Liver Diseases (PSSLD) in collaboration with the Pakistan Association of Family Physicians (PAFP) to commemorate the World Hepatitis Day.
They said that to increase the awareness about hepatitis, the WHO has endorsed this day, the 28h of July as the World Hepatitis Day, which is only one of the four days named for a disease throughout the year.
They said that unfortunately people are not aware of the magnitude of the problem, and the precautions needed to prevent this disease. Gastroenterologist, Prof Muzafar Latif Gill talked about the different aspects of the common liver disorders. He informed the public about the chronic hepatitides B and C.
They are called the silent killers because most of the infected people never know about their disease status until too late, he added.
He said that without causing much distress to the patient the diseases can reach a stage where treatment may become impossible or at least very difficult.
He said that both these viruses are transmitted by infected blood and reuse of needles and piercing tools for the ladies nose and ear and the shaving razors for men are the major source for the spread of infection. He said that an effective vaccine is available for Hepatitis B but none for hepatitis C. Medical therapy is possible but fraught with costs, expensive and repeated blood tests, side effects and failures,he added.
Prof Masood Siddiq informed about the prevalence of the liver diseases in Pakistan, appraising the public to the magnitude of the problem and the tremendous effort it would need for the government and the doctor community to bring the liver diseases in control.
He said that efforts are needed to comply with the WHO recommendation of eradicating hepatitis by the year 2030.
He added about 2.5 to 4% of the general population suffers from Hepatitis B and the prevalence of Hepatitis C is even more common affecting about 5 to 6% of the general population.
He said that even more common is the Hepatitis A which affects nearly 90% of the children by the age 15 years. Controlling them would need universal vaccination and supply of potable water to the masses, in addition to the proper disposal of used needles and an absolute ban on reuse of instruments like shaving razors and piercing tools for the girls. Dr Junaid Saleem said that acute Hepatitis is caused by two viruses, namely Hepatitis A and E. Hepatitis A is the disease of the young, and most people by the age 15 have evidence of previous infection and immunity already in their bodies, he added.
He said that an effective vaccine is available and can be given to children to prevent the occurrence of the disease. Hepatitis E on the other hand occurs later in life an usually affects young adults, he added.
He said that both these viruses are spread via contaminated drinking water. In the absence of reliably clean drinking water out of the tap, the only effective means is to boil the water for at least a minute. Dr Amjad Salamat was next and talked to the assembly about the complications of the chronic hepatitides B and C.