KARACHI – Senior gastroenterologists and hepatologists at a press conference on Thursday demanded provincial and federal governments to launch country-wide screening for Hepatitis B and C as majority of country’s 18 to 20 million people were unaware of their disease and they only approach healthcare facilities when their condition becomes out of control and incurable.
“Pakistan is among world’s one of the high risk countries with respect to Hepatitis B and C at the moment and if no action is taken immediately for mass screening and treatment, this epidemic could take lives of large number of people in the coming years despite being preventable and treatable diseases”, Dr. Shahid Ahmed, consultant gastroenterologist and Organizer of Pakistan Network of Liver and Gastroenterology (PNLG) told a crowded press conference at Karachi Press Club (KPC).
The press conference was organized by the PNLG in connection with World Hepatitis Day 2017, which is being observed today, July 28 all over the world to create awareness about the lethal infectious disease that is currently killing millions of people annually around the globe.
On the occasion, an awareness walk was also held outside Karachi Press Club which was attended by doctors and members of civil society to draw the attention of people towards dangers of Hepatitis B and C. Participants of the walk urged people to avoid excessive use of injections and drips, get them screened for Hepatitis B and C and adopt healthy practices to prevent them from viral diseases.
Accompanied by Dr. Lubna Kamani from Liaquat National Hospital, Dr. Amanullah Abbassi from Dow University of Health Sciences, Dr. Sajjad Jamil from Liaquat National Hospital, Dr. Nazish Butt from Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC) and several other consultants, Dr. Shahid Ahmed said Hepatitis B is completely preventable with vaccine while Hepatitis C is now completely treatable with oral medicines but unfortunately majority of people were not even aware that they were infected with these viruses.
“Due to ignorance and unhealthy practices, one out of 10 or around 18 to 20 million people in Pakistan are suffering from Hepatitis B and C. Unfortunately, a large number of people don’t get themselves screened from these virus, fearing that these diseases are incurable infectious, which is totally wrong”, Dr. Shahid Ahmed, who is an Associate Professor at Darul Sehat Hospital, maintained.
According to him, many public and private health institutions including Dow University, Liaquat National Hospital and some other institutions were screening people for Hepatitis B and C on this Friday and Saturday and urged people to visit these free camps and get them and their families screened for the lethal but curable diseases.
On the occasion, he announced that Pakistan Network of Liver and Gastroenterology (PNLG) would hold a free Hepatitis B and C screening camp at Karachi Press Club (KPC) on August 14 for the working journalists and their families and urged other organizations to also hold such camps at schools, public offices and places to screen people for the infectious, viral disease.
Another expert, Dr. Lubna Kamani from the Liaquat National Hospital said there was no vaccine available for the prevention of Hepatitis C but added that it was now a treatable disease and urged people to get themselves screened for the Hepatitis B and C viruses.
“Hepatitis B and C are silent infections and they only appear when they create irreparable damage to the liver and other organs of the patients. Best option is to get yourself screened and start treatment, which is now highly affordable and safe in Pakistan”, Dr. Kamani said.
Registrar DUHS and gastroenterologist Dr. Amanullah Abbassi said DUHS was holding free screening camp on Friday and Saturday for the screening of the disease and urged media to sensitize people about this disease and its mode of transmission.
“Both hepatitis B and C spread from one person to other through exchange of blood and using infected syringes, medical equipment and utensils. People should take precautionary measures and should not use other’s blades, razors, syringes and other instrument”, he warned.
Dr. Sajjad Jamil from Liaquat National Hospital said awareness was key to prevention from both Hepatitis B and C, which are transmitted through infected blood and Hepatitis A and E, which spreads through infected and unclean water and food.
“Media should apprise people that they should not use infected medical equipment and other items including razors and blades and they should drink clean, purified and boiled water so that they could prevent themselves from Jaundice”, he added.
Consultant gastroenterologist Dr. Nazish Butt from JPMC called for action against quacks who wrongly treat Hepatitis and further spread it, ask patients to eat healthy food and urged people especially women to get themselves screened for the viral diseases.
Dr. Muhammad Shoaib from Memon Medical Institute urged Pharmaceutical companies to start screening programs of the patients, and also asked them to provide medical treatment of the Hepatitis B and C on more affordable rates.
Several other specialists and hepatologists including Dr. Shahid Mahmood from National Medical Center (NMC), Dr. Hafeezullah and Dr. Zahid Azam from DUHS and Dr. Mukesh Kumar from Liaquat College of Dentistry and Medicine also spoke.