WORLD Hepatitis Day was observed on Thursday with the theme ‘I Can’t Wait’, reminding that nearly 1.5 million people still die across the world as a result of contaminated world, poor medical care, unsanitary injections and a lack of disease awareness.
According to some estimates about fifteen million people suffer from Hepatitis B and C in Pakistan, making it the biggest killer among communicable diseases.
Each year brings about two hundred thousand new cases. The disease is called a silent killer because many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated for many years before developing complications.
Major risk factors for the transmission of Hepatitis B and C infection includes: therapeutic injections, syringe reuse, surgery, improper sterilization of invasive medical devices, blood transfusion, hospitalization and sharing of razors while getting shave from barbers.
A lesser known but dangerous form of Hepatitis is Hepatitis E, which is water-borne, and in Pakistan, is also one of the leading causes of deaths in expecting mothers and in patients with a history of liver disease.
Between 40% and 60% of Pakistanis living in the urban areas lack access to safe drinking water.
Also, 25-40% of hospital beds in Pakistan are occupied by patients suffering from waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid and Hepatitis E (HEV).
A promising development in the country’s fight against Hepatitis E occurred last year with the introduction of Hecolin, the world’s first vaccine against Hepatitis E, introduced in Pakistan by Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd in partnership with Xiamen Innovax Biotech, a renowned Chinese biopharmaceutical company.
Hecolin is a promising Hepatitis E vaccine that can significantly reduce maternal mortality resulting from Hepatitis E.
As the theme of this year suggests, our federal and provincial governments must take and fulfil responsibility of ensuring better sanitation and sewerage facilities as well as provision of clean drinking water to the people to save the population from this silent killer.
We need to focus more on disease prevention through awareness and vaccination, and in the case of Hepatitis C in particular, elimination through treatment and cure.