Presence of hepatitis, other diseases among food handlers

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PFA report paints an alarming picture of diseases spreading in provincial capital

LAHORE: Due to consumption of unhygienic food and lack of cleanliness at food points, the number of hepatitis patients is growing rapidly in Lahore. This has been revealed in a first ever medical report of Punjab Food Authority (PFA) released recently.

The PFA report indicated the growing number of such patients and revealed that a great number of handlers working at the food points were directly or indirectly caught with different diseases.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver which has five types; A, B, C, D and E. These 5 types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness, the potential for outbreaks, epidemic spread and fatalities among patients. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.

An official in Punjab Hepatitis Control Program, while talking to Pakistan Today, said that the basic aim of the programme was to provide the vaccination and medicine to the patients. However, he said that this was not mandatory for the authority to find out the patients.  He revealed that every ninth person in Lahore was contacted with some of the hepatitis virus while the number of hepatitis patients in Punjab province had grown up to seven million.

The official, however, blamed the other related authorities for their failure in creating awareness among society. “The number of patients with all types of hepatitis virus was increasing manifold and this upward trend was going unchecked in Punjab,” he said, adding that food points, barber shops and quacks were the major sources of spreading hepatitis virus among the public.

PFA, besides monitoring the food items and food points, has now widened its circle as it has started taking samples of workers and handlers engaged with food businesses. In its recent move, its medical report regarding the handlers associated with food businesses depicts the alarming situation toward the spread of hepatitis virus in the public. The report reveals the presence of hepatitis virus also other diseases in food workers.

Spokesman of PFA said that the authority aimed to provide safe food to every citizen in the province.

Gastroenterologist Dr Salman Kazmi said that unclean drinking water, unhygienic food and improper sanitation are factors behind the growing number of hepatitis patients. Talking to Pakistan Today, he said that there was an immense need of spreading awareness among public to prevent them from this disease. He said that authorities must ensure that everyone associated with the food business must be disease free.