Vaccine is the best way to prevent hepatitis: experts

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700,000 deaths are caused by HCV every year

4.5% Pakistanis infected with HCV, 2.5% with HBV

Approximately 700,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases. More than 686,000 people die every year due to complications of hepatitis B, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.

An estimated 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and around 130–150 million people globally have chronic hepatitis C infection, according to alarming figures revealed by the WHO, said Shifa International Hospital (SIH) Consultant Gastroenterologist Dr Muhammad Salih on Thursday.

SIH Islamabad organised an awareness campaign among patients and general public to mark world hepatitis day. In this regard, information stalls were placed in Shifa Hospital, where all kind of information literature related to the hepatitis was available including brochures, flyers, pamphlets, and booklets.

CDA Health Services Director Dr Hassan Urooj formally inaugurated the event. He interacted with the doctors and management of SIH and appreciated Shifa for arranging an informative session to promote prevention and healthy living.

A large number of people from the twin cities joined the campaign and found the campaign material informative and helpful in avoiding hepatitis and understanding the significance and severity of the disease. In addition, free screening for HBV was also offered through a lucky draw to the audience there. All the patients with HBV and HCV were also provided with free consultancy from qualified gastroenterologists.

Dr Salih said that the spectrum of chronic hepatitis C infection is essentially the same as chronic hepatitis B infection. He underscored that around 4.5 per cent of total Pakistani population is hepatitis C infected, whereas 2.5 per cent of the population is infected with hepatitis B.

He said people in Asia-Pacific acquire HBV and HCV infection through transfusion and transplant.

Newborns of long-term carriers, individual with multiple sexual partners, intravenous drug users, healthcare workers, prisoners and other institutionalised people also acquire HBV and HCV infection, he added.

Highlighting clinical features of chronic liver disease, Dr Salih said: fatigue, vascular spiders, enlarged or shrunken liver, enlarged spleen, finger clubbing, ascites and bruising are some of the symptoms.

“Vaccine is the best way to prevent the disease in the healthy ones,” he stated, and added, “Early diagnosis of HBV and HCV is very important in order to get rid of it and to avoid liver failure which results in liver transplant.”

“Used syringes, used blades at barber shops, tobacco and alcohol consumption and blood transfusion through unscreened blood can cause hepatitis. In order to avoid the virus the universal safety precautions should be observed,” he concluded.