Experts foresee hepatitis emergency in Sindh as incidence ratio climbs to 9pc


With incidence ratio of up to 9 per cent, hepatitis has made deep inroads in Sindh province and there would soon be a hepatitis emergency in the province if the government failed to realise the seriousness of the issue and take matching efforts, said experts.

They were talking on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day. The Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology, Dadabhoy Institute of Higher Education (DIHE), Pakistan Society for Microbiology (PSM) and Bio Safety Association of Pakistan (BSAP) jointly organised an interactive workshop on “Controlling Hepatitis through Awareness and Vaccination”, in collaboration with Chief Minister’s Hepatitis Prevention and Control Programme.

In her keynote lecture, DIHE Rector Professor Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi said that Hepatitis B and C are two most common life threatening diseases which have claimed millions of lives globally.

She said that mass scale violations of biosafety and biosecurity standard procedures in healthcare institutions and diagnostic laboratories, lack of education and awareness about the severity of disease and its complications like hepato-cellular carcinoma are amongst the reasons of spread of hepatitis.

She said there is lack of awareness regarding the importance of prevention and control strategies like vaccination against Hepatitis B, and there is less than 30 per cent coverage by Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI).

She said with these drawbacks, we now have to deal with uncontrolled spread of this preventable disease. She said three million people are people suffering from Hepatitis B and C.

She said most of the adults (90 per cent) can get rid of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection with available treatment but more than 90 per cent of the infected babies and children are unable to get rid of the virus and they end up developing chronic infection.

Since a very safe HBV vaccine is available for both adults and babies, we as responsible members of the community should encourage people to avail this facility to reduce the incidence and protect ourselves against this fatal disease, she said, adding our team of volunteers is working in close collaboration with  PSM , BSAP and chief minster’s hepatitis control programme to eradicate this disease in students of schools, colleges and universities of Sindh and it will be more than happy to arrange a vaccination camp as and when a request is received.

Chief Minister’s Hepatitis Control Programme Monitoring Cell Head Dr Abdul Qadir Bhutto gave details of the vaccination campaigns and promised to extend his full help and cooperation to make academic institutions free of HBV.

Pakistan Medical Research Council (PMRC) Deputy Director Dr Waqaruddin Ahmed shared statistics of hepatitis infection in Pakistan.

He said that globally around two billion and in Pakistan, seven to eight million people are suffering from Hepatitis B or C.

In the province of Sindh, according to PMRC survey the incidence is between five to 9 per cent with variation in different cities. He suggested HBV vaccination in earlier age group – starting from neonates to school going kids can play a very important role in reducing the incidence.

Public health specialist and DIHE Epidemiology Department Head of Department Dr Sharaf Ali Shah emphasised the role of community, non-governmental organisations along with government agencies in increasing awareness about the disease and importance of vaccination to control the spread to protect the citizens.

He said that due to the inclusion of HBV vaccine in  EPI  regime, the incidence of Hepatitis B has gone down to some extent but Hepatitis C, another very serious viral disease also affecting the liver, has gone up especially in rural cities which needs to be controlled.

Infectious diseases expert Dr Ali Imran recommended the use of tele-health education and electronic media to create awareness about hepatitis and its complications. He said that this disease can also be transmitted at beauty parlours and jewellery shops through the use of non-sterile instruments for ear piercing and other treatments.