ISLAMABAD: Chief of Medicine & Gastroenterology at Shifa International Hospital (SIH) Dr. Nasir Khokhar has said that around one million people die each year from Hepatitis B (HBV) infection, making it the 9th leading cause of death in the world. 350 million people world-wide are long-term carriers of hepatitis B. 75 percent of the long-term careers are from Asia Pacific region while 25 percent belong to the rest of the world.
While addressing the Hepatitis awareness seminar organized by SIH in connection with World Hepatitis Day here on Tuesday, Dr. Nasir Khokhar said that up to 25 percent die due to hepatitis B or related complications and Hepatitis has become devastating global healthcare issue.
Commenting on Hepatitis C (HCV), Dr. Khokhar said an estimated four million people are infected with Hepatitis C in the US only. The spectrum of chronic hepatitis C infection is essentially the same as chronic hepatitis B infection, he added. He underscored that around 4.5 percent of total Pakistani population is hepatitis C infected whereas 2.5 percent of the population is hepatitis B patient.
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 institutionalized people also acquire HBV and HCV infection. Highlighting clinical features of chronic liver disease, Dr. Khokhar said, fatigue, vascular spiders, enlarged or shrunken liver, enlarged spleen, finger clubbing, ascites and bruising are some of the symptoms.
Consultant Gastroenterologist, Dr. Mohammad Salih was of the view that hepatitis B infection can be prevented in non-infected individuals by vaccination, which is affected in 90 percent of the recipients. “However millions of infected will not be benefited,” he remarked. By 1998, about 80 countries had introduced vaccine for hepatitis B.
He urged people infected from HBV and HCV to start effective and timely treatment to avoid end-stage liver disease like liver cancer and liver failure.
Dr. Salih said many cases of hepatitis A occur in community-wide outbreaks and no risk factors are identified for most cases. “It has highest attack rate in 5-14 year olds and children serve as reservoir of infection,” he added. Contaminated water and food are the main causes of hepatitis A. Flies may carry diseases such as hepatitis A, typhoid, amebic dysentery and polio.
Consultant Gastroenterologist, Dr. Farzana Shafqat stressed the need for adopting healthy and hygienic lifestyle to avoid hepatitis A and E. He said young children should be vaccinated for hepatitis A. She suggested that to prevent hepatitis E, people, especially travelers, should avoid drinking water of unknown purity, unhygienic food and fruit/vegetables not peeled or prepared by/for travelers. She said that since hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through blood and body fluids, universal precautions are needed to avoid the disease. “Vaccine for HBV also protects against hepatitis D,” Dr. Farzana said.
All the patients with HBV and HCV were also being provided free consultancy from qualified gastroenterologists.