There are 12.3 million people in Pakistan infected with hepatitis B or C, according to the first-ever national survey on hepatitis.
Twenty-three teams collected and studied blood samples of 47,043 men, women and children, out of which 2.5% were found to be infected with hepatitis B, while 4.9% suffered from hepatitis C. Punjab had the highest number of hepatitis C cases, with 6.7% people testing positive for the disease, with 5% in Vehari alone. Balochistan had the highest cases of hepatitis B with 4.3% people testing positive.
The survey revealed that majority of the people infected were adult males (7.6% of the sample), to which the report blamed the use of unsterilised razor blades in barber shops. The report attributed the increasing prevalence of hepatitis cases to the use of used syringes and administration of unnecessary injections.
The report, launched at a local hotel to mark the World Hepatitis Day on Thursday, was the first population-based national survey ever conducted to gauge the number of hepatitis patients in the country. The survey was conducted from July 2007 to May 2008 across the country by Pakistan Green Task Force, in collaboration with Ministry of Health, Federal Bureau of Statistics and Pakistan Medical Research Council.
Pakistan Green Task Force President Dr Jamal Nasir said that the World Health Organization allows 3.5 injections to be administered to an individual per year but its study shows that in Pakistan, on average 13.6 injections are administered. This significantly adds to the increasing prevalence of hepatitis in the country, he said, adding that he was “shocked” to see a large number of children aged five to 19 years suffering from hepatitis B and C in the country.
Dr Ali Mohammad, a homeopathic doctor, said that weak immunisation is one of the major hurdles in controlling the spread of hepatitis.
Rawalpindi Medical College Principal Professor Afzal Farooqi blamed lack of awareness among the public about the causes and treatment of hepatitis and held doctors responsible for failing to inform patients the negative impacts of getting unnecessary injections.
Later however, it seemed that the seminar’s focus shifted from creating awareness about hepatitis to promoting Baitul Mal’s Managing Director Zamrud Khan, who was the chief guest. Speakers went on praising the managing director while those who had potent information to share were given only three to four minutes to speak.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2011.