World Hepatitis Day observed

Every year World Hepatitis Day is observed throughout the world including in Pakistan on May 19 to create awareness among the people about the disease, its spread, prevention and treatment.
On the occasion health experts have urged to consider the important aspect of prevention from deadly disease with focus on screening of blood products, use of sterilized equipment and better hygienic standards in barber shops.
According to them, hepatitis is a easily controllable disease, but a little lapse in precautions can lead to very disastrous consequences.
They said there is an awareness among doctors and public regarding the causes and spread of disease however, there should be more focus on timely diagnosis and treatment.
They said both private and public partnership in true spirit and sincerity are needed to get rid of this disease and making the country free from hepatitis in near future, he added.
Medical experts claimed 500 million people in the world have exposure to hepatitis and Pakistan is no exception. They added in Pakistan there are two types of viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis A and E are short lived and self-limited which spread through feco-oral-route. Summer season epidemic of this type is very common throughout the developing world due to poor hygienic standards, they added.
They said hepatitis B and C are blood bond diseases and usually chronic and have long term consequences unlike hepatitis A and E.
Renowned consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist Prof. Muzzaffar Lateef Gill claimed that every 12th individual in Pakistani population is suffering from hepatitis B or C.
“We as a nation need two-prong approach, one is to prevent the spread of the disease and the second is to have foolproof treatment for everybody, who is suffering from hepatitis B and C,” Dr. Gill added.
He said there should be a universal vaccination for hepatitis B, which is spreading everywhere in the country.
Dr. Gill said treatment of hepatitis B and C in the last decade has been revolutionized as hepatitis C, which exists in Pakistan, is almost 90% curable if appropriate combination at appropriate time is used.
He suggested that worldwide weekly injection along with ribavirin is the standard treatment and duration is 24 weeks. “New challenge we are facing now is the recurrence of hepatitis C after the completion of Pegylated interferon.”
This is very alarming situation and the incidence of this problem is 10 percent to 15 percent. “To deal with this problem we have a hope with consensus interferon (Infergen).”
Dr. Gill added in this particular population group the response rate with this particular injection is close to 90% regarding hepatitis B treatment and the Pegylated interferon injection or tablet Entacavir is the current available standard.
He said the consequences of treatment failure are huge. The patient develops advanced stage disease like cirrhosis, then he starts bleeding and his belly swells up. The only option then is liver transplant, he added.
He said the country’s budget is insufficient to take care of these liver disease patients and transplant facilities are also not available here.
Various public and private health organizations have planned a number of activities to observe the day in a befitting manner.

Copyright APP (Associated Press of Pakistan), 2010