ISLAMABAD : Viral hepatitis is the 8th highest cause of mortality globally and was responsible for an estimated 1.34 million deaths in 2015, a toll comparable to that of HIV and tuberculosis. Globally, approximately 257 million persons are chronically infected with Hepatitis B and 71 million with Hepatitis C. At this rate, an estimated 20 million deaths will occur between 2015 and 2030, Dr. Nadeem Iqbal, Gastroenterologist at Shifa International Hospital shared this data on World Hepatitis Day.
World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of Viral Hepatitis and to influence real change.
On WHD 2018, Shifa International Hospital has 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.
This campaign has been launched to bring much needed attention to the fact that millions of people are living with Viral Hepatitis unaware. It should also be used to inspire the community to take action to support the uptake in screening and diagnosis, whilst driving action to join the quest and link people living with the disease to care.
He shared that within Pakistan almost 12 million people are suffering from Hepatitis B or C. Each year brings about 150,000 new cases. The majority of people catch this infection in health care settings without being aware of it. The disease is called a silent killer because many patients remain undiagnosed and untreated for many years before developing complications and dying.
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. Some population groups are highly affected by Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C such as injecting drug users and Thalassemia patients. For hepatitis C, high prevalence of infection is reported in children especially those who were admitted in hospitals with acute hepatitis, while for HEV, most of the infections were due to fecal contamination of water.
“Highly effective recombinant vaccines are now available. Vaccine can be given to those who are at increased risk of HBV infection such as health care workers. It is also given routinely to neonates as universal vaccination in many countries. Hepatitis B Immunoglobulin (HBIG) may be used to protect persons who are exposed to Hepatitis B. It is particular efficacious within 48 hours of the incident. It may also be given to neonates who are at increased risk of contracting Hepatitis B i.e. whose mothers are HBsAg and HBeAg positive. Other measures include screening of blood donors, blood and body fluid precautions,” he concluded.