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Hepatitis accounts for 1.34 million deaths per year: Farzana Shafqat.

ISLAMABAD -- Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist at Shifa International Hospital (SIH) Dr. Farzana Shafqat on Friday said that viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year - that's as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.

'Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80 percent of liver cancer cases in the world,' she said while addressing an awareness seminar organized by SIH for the patients and general public to mark World Hepatitis Day.

She said, 'Viral hepatitis is not found in one location nor amongst one set of people; it is a truly global epidemic that can affect millions of people without them even being aware. Currently, 90 percent of people living with hepatitis B and 80 percent living with hepatitis C are not aware of their status.'

'This can result in the real possibility of developing fatal liver disease at some point in their lives and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others, Alarming figures revealed by WHO,' she said.

Dr. Farzana said, 'People acquire HBV and HCV infection through transfusion and transplant. Perinatal-Mothers who are HBeAg positive are much more likely to transmit to their offspring than those who are not.'

'Perinatal transmission is the main means of transmission in high prevalence populations, Newborns of long-term carriers, individual with multiple sexual partners, intravenous drug users, healthcare workers, prisoners and other institutionalized people also acquire HBV and HCV infection,' she added.

Dr. Farzana highlighted the clinical features of chronic liver disease saying, 'Fatigue, vascular spiders, enlarged or shrunken liver, enlarged spleen, finger clubbing, ascites and bruising are some of the symptoms.'

Consultant Internal Medicine at SIH Dr. Shahzad Khan Siddique said, 'Pakistan carries one of the world's highest burdens of chronic hepatitis and mortality due to liver failure and hepatocellular carcinomas.'

'In Pakistan it is estimated that nearly four million people in the country have been exposed to hepatitis B virus and about eight million to hepatitis C virus. According to The Pakistan Medical Research Council survey in 2007-2008, the prevalence of HBsAg was 2.5 percent while anti HCV prevalence was 4.8 percent making a combined infection rate of 7.6 percent reflecting a population pool of about 13 million chronic hepatitis B and C carriers,' he said.

He said, 'The elimination of viral hepatitis is not just a public health goal, it is an individual goal for millions of men, women and children across the world. Every single person could be affected by viral hepatitis and we all have a part to play to achieve elimination.'

Dr. Shahzad added that, 'With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment.'

'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 includes screening of blood donors, blood and body fluid precautions,' he concluded.

It was advised to launch a campaign for Hepatitis Free Pakistan both by public and private sector by providing the preventive vaccine to the public on affordable cost.

In addition free screenings for HBV and HCV were also offered to the number of audience. All the patients with HBV and HCV were also being provided free consultancy from qualified gastroenterologists.
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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Jul 29, 2017
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