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HCV in Pakistan: Around 24,000 people die of HCV
 
 
  Published: August 03, 2011
http://nation.com.pk/pakistan
 
ISLAMABAD (APP) - Around twenty to forty thousand people are dying with HCV (Hepatitis C Virus) annually in Pakistan while about 1.5 million blood or blood product transfusions are done annually as HCV infection is higher in multi-transfused population compared to normal population.
 
According to research studies, the prevalence of HCV infection is much higher in Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs) and in one study conducted in Lahore as high as 93 percent of IDUs were positive for HCV. The major source of HCV infection is unsafe use of syringes and needles in healthcare settings in developing countries including Pakistan.
 
Hepatitis C is becoming a major killer disease in the world and also poses an increased burden on the economy of the developing countries which have a large proportion of their population suffering from this disease.
 
Hepatitis B and C are major cause of liver complications, including cirrhosis, liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). World Health Organization (WHO) estimate that there are 170 million people with chronic Hepatitis C and 350 million people with chronic hepatitis B infection worldwide that result in more than 1 million death annually. New cases of HCV are increasing each year due to the lack of resources as well as unawareness about the disease.
 
According to a latest report, 7.4 percent Pakistani population is suffering from Hepatitis B and C, while 4.9 percent population is suffering from Hepatitis C only, which is an alarming situation.
 
Certain professions like Health care workers, sex workers and barbers are at high risk of HCV. Prevalence of HCV infection in family members of infected patients is around two times higher than normal population. So there is great need to educate common people about the disease itself, its spread, protective measures and treatment.
 
Talking to APP, scientist Aftab Ahmed said unfortunately no effective vaccine is available for Hepatitis C due to high mutation rate in genome of HCV. He said, "If you are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, take it easy, do plenty of rest and take more fluids to prevent dehydration. Don't go for heavy exercise and avoid medicine that can harm liver (Tylenol)". Treatment is available for Hepatitis C in the form of Interferon and ribavirin, usually given for six months.
 
Around 50 percent patients respond to this therapy. Combination therapy of Pegylated interferon and ribavirin improve the response, as pegylated interferon is more effective. Besides this,two new drugs, telaprevir (Incivek) and boceprevir were approved in 2011 for treatment of Hepatitis C. Both are effective against HCV and around 80 percent patients respond to new therapy which is great news for Hepatitis C patients. Government is also planning to open liver clinics where Hepatitis Patients will get free checkup and medicine.
 
In addition, two liver transplant centers (Shaikh Zayed Hospital Lahore and Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Islamabad) will be working soon.
 
Scientist Aftab Ahmed said there is also need of a working group comprising scientists, researchers and specialists to work on causes and prevalence of Hepatitis in Pakistan and figure out effective and new ways to treat patients.
 
Scientist Aftab Ahmed said National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS) also published a booklet on Hepatitis B and C which is freely available on website www.nays.com.pk.
 
The booklet contains all the basic information about Hepatitis B and C and also answers to basic questions.
 
He said, "Initially we published 3000 copies of booklets and plan is to distribute these books in schools and colleges to create awareness over the disease."
 
 
 
 
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