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4.7% Pakistanis infected with hepatitis C
  High rate of prevalence of hepatitis in Pakistan is mainly because of less effective awareness campaigns

Thursday, July 02, 2009
Muhammad Qasim


A total of 7.4 per cent Pakistanis population is infected with hepatitis of which 2.6 per cent are infected with hepatitis B while 4.7 per cent with hepatitis C. Estimated cost of universal treatment of 11.34 million patients of hepatitis in Pakistan amounts to more than Rs250 billion.

The high rate of prevalence of hepatitis in Pakistan is mainly because of less effective awareness campaigns run in the past and poor preventive measures adopted by our population. It is more alarming keeping the fact in mind that hepatitis is a curable disease and prevention from it is possible.

Professor of Medicine at Rawalpindi Medical College and President-elect Pakistan Society of Hepatology Dr. Mohammad Umar expressed this while speaking at a seminar on hepatitis held here in a local hotel Wednesday.

Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Memorial Society (MKRMS) organised the seminar in collaboration with Pakistan Society of Hepatology and Pakistan Society of Gastroenterology, with main objective of creating awareness among public about treatment and prevention of hepatitis. The seminar was fourth of a series organised on the subject by MKRMS.

In the seminar, Dr. Umar, Professor Dr. Hamamatul Bushra Khar of RMC, General (r) Tasawwar Hussain, Professor Tashfeen Alam of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences and Professor Saleem Qureshi elaborated different aspects of hepatitis A, E, B and C and their complications.

Dr. Umar said that hepatitis, a disease known to mankind since 500 BC, could be divided into two groups, hepatitis A & E and hepatitis B & C. "Hepatitis A & E are mainly caused by consumption of unhygienic food and unsafe drinking water while spread of hepatitis B & C is nothing to do with foodstuff," he said.

He added that the spread of hepatitis A & E could easily be checked by creating awareness among public on consumption of clean drinking water and hygienic food. "Use of cut fruits from open markets, locally prepared 'sharbats', milk and milk products on sale in unhygienic conditions and foodstuff from vendors should be avoided not only to prevent hepatitis A & E but also to prevent gastroenteritis."

He said that safe drinking water is a must to avoid hepatitis. "Boiling of water for drinking every time costs much, so we should adopt scientific rather simple methods to make water germs free. You should add 100 grams of bleaching powder to one litre of water and boil it. After boiling, store the concentrate (boiled one) in a clean jar, and each time, add only three spoonfuls of the concentrate in 10 litres of water to make it purified. Three spoons of concentrate make 10 litre of water safe to drink without any further boiling," he explained the way of purifying drinking water without boiling each time.

Talking on causes of spread of hepatitis B & C, he said use of used syringes, unsafe sexual relations, unscreened blood transfusions, shaving with contaminated razor, tattooing, contaminated instruments of 'footpath dentists', unsafe intravenous infusions, wastes in hospitals' wards and improper blood sample collection are among major factors contributing to spread of the disease. "I believe that by adopting simple preventive measures, we can control the spread of the disease," he said.

He said that his team has developed a website - - for providing guidelines not only to patients but also to junior doctors who should be much careful while advising medication to patients. "Culture of unnecessary medication, use of injection and blood transfusion should be eliminated."

While speaking on the occasion, Dr. Bushra Khar supported Dr. Umar's point of view on prevention and control of hepatitis in Pakistan. "Prevention and control on a disease having more than seven per cent occurrence among population is responsibility of the state yet without creating awareness among public the problem could not be eliminated."

She said that in Pakistan, the contamination increased with increase in population. "Without controlling population, the problem could not be resolved as we have meagre resources available in Pakistan." She added that prevention from hepatitis B is 100 per cent possible through administration of hepatitis B vaccine that costs not more than Rs600.

General (r) Tasawwar Hussain while speaking to audience, however, presented a new concept saying that the occurrence of hepatitis B & C has increased with the increase in number of healthcare facilities across Pakistan. "It convinced me to believe that unnecessary or unsafe pricking at the healthcare facilities is one of the major causes of spread of hepatitis in Pakistan and it should be discouraged religiously by medical professionals."

Studies reveal that Pakistan is at number two around the globe where population has maximum number of unnecessary injections. After the lectures from experts, questions and answers session was held.

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