PESHAWAR: Health experts on Thursday said that Pakistan contributes around 80 per cent of the total hepatitis cases in the Eastern Mediterranean Region where it remains second for the most number of patients after China.
Globally, they said, Pakistan was next to Egypt for the prevalence of viral hepatitis.
While there was no accurate data, however, according to a survey carried out in 2008, every 10 person in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) was considered to be infected by viral hepatitis.
Most of the cases were reported from districts Swat, Dir Upper, Dir Lower and Hangu. Moreover, Tank has recently become vulnerable for hepatitis B cases.
In order to control hepatitis cases, the health department plans to propose to the K-P legislators for enacting laws holding blood investigations mandatory ahead of marriages and specifically surgical procedures, The Express Tribune has learnt.
Officials stated that blood screening was mandatory ahead of surgical procedures to protect the doctors from virus. However, tests for would be spouses remains a personal choice of the people of the province where not only hepatitis but thalassemia too was prevalent.
“We have blood testing facilities at the district and tehsil headquarters hospitals besides tertiary care facilities, but on voluntary basis and we want screening to be made mandatory,” a senior health official told The Express Tribune. The official however requested anonymity since he was not authorised to talk to the media.
According to the 2008 survey, where one out of 10 people in K-P was likely to be infected by viral hepatitis, around seven per cent were said to be infected by hepatitis C and some four per cent by hepatitis B. Doctors believe that since more people were coming forward, the ratio reported around 10 years ago was now higher than the expected.
Dr Kalimullah, head of the K-P Hepatitis Control Programme, said that screening facilities were available at 35 health centres.
If found positive, some 32 facilities offer Elisa blood investigation, he said, adding patients were later referred for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to further verify test results at 10 divisional sites.
Calling viral hepatitis a silent killer and more dangerous than terrorism, Kalimullah said infected people could live a normal life for 30 to 35 years without knowing about the infection.
Hepatitis B and C had similar symptoms and Tenofovir tablets were available at all health facilities as cure for hepatitis B. “We have introduced doses for babies and once vaccinated, there was a one per cent chance of infection until and unless directly infected due to infected blood transfusion and injection,” Dr Kalimullah informed.
He said their department was planning health camps for hepatitis vaccination in high risk areas. Dr Kalimullah further said that 34 per cent of cases were caused by quackeries.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2017.
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