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Hepatitis spreading fast in Pakistan (10% Rate), while government yet to take action
ISLAMABAD: Even though one out of 10 Pakistanis suffers from the virus of either Hepatitis B or C, the hepatitis-infected population of 15 million awaits the proper implementation of a National Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis in Pakistan to control the deadly disease.
Unsafe drinking water, unscreened blood transfusion and the rampant use of used syringes have spread hepatitis, making it one of the biggest concerns for the country's health managers.
Health professionals and government officials give conflicting statements about the prevalence rate of Hepatitis B in the country. Going by their statements the prevalence rate may vary from 4.8 to 5.8 percent.
Millions of Pakistanis have been infected with the deadly virus, but no public department or agency has accurate information about the number positive cases. Going by the figure of 5.8 percent prevalence rate, there may be around 8 million Hepatitis B patients in the country. Hepatitis B and C are global health problems as worldwide 350 million people are carriers of the Hepatitis B virus. The virus causes a deadly liver disease having same mode of transmission as AIDS.
Medial experts believe that the Hepatitis B virus was spreading fast because of ignorance among the patients and a lack of proper preventive measures.
There are five types of hepatitis - A, B, C, D and E - of which A and E are caused through oral infection, contaminated water and unhygienic food. Hepatitis B, C and D are caused through un-sterilised syringes, sexual relation, blood transfusion and from mother to newborn baby.y. Anti-hepatitis efforts are underway with the support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), which is financially supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. By the end of the year 2005, Pakistan will get 81.093 million doses from GAVI and immunise more than 21 million children.
The disease is transmitted by bodily fluids such as blood, semen, saliva and vaginal secretions. It is claimed that the Hepatitis B virus is 100 times more concentrated in the blood than the HIV virus making it much easier to spread.
Hepatitis C is often called a 'silent epidemic' and it can live in the body for decades, often with no symptoms, while attacking the liver. The long-term consequences of Hepatitis C can include liver disease, liver cancer, and death. There is also no cure for Hepatitis C.
The federal government has already launched the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Hepatitis in Pakistan. An official of the National Institute of Health (NIH) says the five-year programme would cost Rs 2.59 billion. The major components of the programme include safe drinking water, safe blood transfusion, behaviour change communication, safe disposal of injection and invasive devices, capacity building, vaccination of high risk groups and free treatment of over 5,000 patients on annual basis.
The Capital Development Authority also launched a campaign to check the causes of spread of the hepatitis in the capital. The campaign is being supported by the Health Ministry and other departments.
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