The 51st Public Awareness Seminar on “Strategies for Eliminating Viral Hepatitis from Pakistan” was held at Dr Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), the University of Karachi on Wednesday. Dr Panjwani Center and Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) jointly organised the seminar to observe World Hepatitis Day 2019.
Aga Khan University Hospital Associate Dean/ Chairman Department of Professional Education, Hepatologist/Consultant Gastroenterologist Prof Dr Wasim addressed the seminar. He said, “Hepatitis refers to an inflammatory condition of the liver. Pakistan is ranked second in the world in term of having the highest prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus with the highest therapeutic use of injection, worldwide.”
Talking about the disease, he added that over 15 million people in Pakistan were affected by Hepatitis B & C Viruses. “Following the prevalence of the diseases, there is an alarming situation in Sindh. Transmission of Hepatitis E is linked with monsoon rains and hence the government needs to take effective measures to keep pace with the rest of the world to achieve the elimination of Hepatitis by 2030.”
Prof Jafri said hepatitis was a major global health problem. Pakistan owned all five main types of viral hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, which indicated how the country was endemic to hepatitis, he added. Poor law and order situation and illiteracy in the country had forced the authorities to depute an army soldier along with the health workers to carry on with the anti-polio to vulnerable kids, he lamented.
Talking about the symptoms of the disease, he said some common signs include jaundice abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. He said, “Hepatitis can be caused by drugs, alcohol or other toxins, by infection with bacteria, viruses or parasites and hosts of other causes including storage disorders. However, viruses and alcohol were the most common cause of the illness, he stated.
As per the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 and 2013, hepatitis caused more deaths worldwide than other diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria etc. It is pertinent to mention here that WHO’s global hepatitis strategy, endorsed by all WHO Member States, aims to reduce new hepatitis infections by 90 percent and deaths by 65 per cent between 2016 and 2030.