Lahore - Like around the world, the Hepatitis Day is being observed across the country today. Calling for stepping up efforts to fight hepatitis, the Shaukat Khanum Media Cell released statistics on the eve of Hepatitis Day.

Citing www.hepatitisday.org, www.cancerresearchuk.org, National Hepatitis Strategic Framework for Pakistan 2017-2021 and Shaukat Khanum Collective Cancer Registry Report 2018, the statistics show that Worldwide, 325 million people are living with Hepatitis B and C, a potentially deadly disease.

The report said: “The Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) has a huge disease burden of Hepatitis B (17.5 million) and C (16 million). Unfortunately, Egypt and Pakistan carry almost 80% of the disease burden. Hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death worldwide claiming 4,000 lives every day.Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) becomes chronic in about 80% of the patients and thus contributes to morbidity and mortality. For those who are suffering from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C for a long time, these viruses can cause liver cancer. According to the latest Shaukat Khanum Collective Cancer Registry Report, liver cancer is among the top 5 most common cancers seen in adults at its facilities since 1994.”

In Pakistan, 86pc of people with HBV or HCV remain unaware

It continued: “It is tragic that 290 million out of 325 million (9 out of 10 people worldwide) are unaware that they are living with viral hepatitis. In Pakistan, 86% of people with HBV or HCV remain unaware of their infection and its consequences and risk transmitting the disease to their partners and families. This is the case because first, there are very few recognizable signs and symptoms for chronic hepatitis. You could have acquired it at childbirth passed from your mother or you may have got it through unsafe injection practices, by sharing a razor, or by coming into contact with infected blood. Second, there are many reasons why this disease is prevalent in a developing country like Pakistan that lacks a proper healthcare system; where there are no efficient pregnancy screening program or an effective mechanism to ensure all babies are vaccinated against HBV.”

However, the cell said the situation is not entirely gloomy. A timely diagnosis can save lives. Cure is available for Hepatitis C and vaccines and treatment for Hepatitis B. All WHO member states have committed to a global reduction in hepatitis related deaths by 65% and new infections by 90% by 2030, making the global elimination of viral hepatitis a realistic goal. To achieve this, a crucial step is to find the missing millions with the help of dedicated efforts by all the stakeholders that include health-care professionals, patients, media, and policy-makers.” As admitted in the NHSF for Pakistan 2017-2021, the very basic hepatitis surveillance system is weak owning to inadequate federal and provincial data.  A responsible citizen can play role in fighting hepatitis by encouraging screening and vaccination.

To mark the day, pledge to get screened from a reputable pathology laboratory.