Five out of every 100 people in Sindh are hepatitis C positive, said Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) associate professor Dr Nasir Luck on Monday.
He was speaking to The Express Tribune during a public health awareness programme at the SIUT, held to mark World Hepatitis Day. First, participants were asked to fill out detailed registration forms. They were then taken for hepatitis virus screening and given a date for the next test.
A video session followed, after which the participants had an interactive session with different speakers. The purpose of the video session was to inform participants of the importance of vaccinations.
Those who wished to proceed with the vaccination were then taken for one.
According to a postgraduate resident, Dr Osama Butt, the areas of Pakistan most affected by hepatitis are upper Sindh and lower Punjab. "Migration from these places introduces the virus to urban areas," he added.
The need for vaccine
"There are no vaccines for hepatitis C," said SIUT postgraduate trainee Dr Aisha Nazeer. "However, we should worry less about what we don't have as our people are barely aware of the need for the vaccines that are available."
Healthcare workers must be vaccinated first and foremost, added Butt. If the blood of an infected person enters another bloodstream, the virus is likely to be transmitted, he added. Health workers have to be extra vigilant as the chances of them coming into contact with infected blood are higher.
Similarly, the instruments used by dentists and beauticians may contribute to the spread of the virus. "Pedicure and manicure equipment is seldom sterilised," said Nazeer.
Butt then discussed what needs to be done if your spouse is infected with hepatitis. "Protection should be used but it may depend on which stage the disease is at," he said.
Children should be vaccinated at birth, said SIUT associate professor Dr Syed Mujahid Hasan. As for adults, he said that regular screenings are not required unless you belong to a high-risk profession such as healthcare. Moreover, thalassaemia and dialysis patients also need to be vaccinated.
During the video session, an alarming message was displayed: 80 per cent of the people who have hepatitis are unaware of it. The need for screenings and vaccinationswas greatly highlighted.
A pamphlet distributed by the SIUT suggests a number of preventive measures that must be taken to fight hepatitis:
1. Always make sure that you never get an unscreened blood transfusion.
2. Use gloves before touching anything that has blood on it. Avoid unnecessary contact with foreign blood.
3. Never let your salon attendant reuse a shaving razor.
4. Always make sure that the piercing equipment being used on you is sterilised properly.
5. Avoid taking treatment from untrained paramedical staff who set up their own small clinics.
6. Always make sure that the dental equipment being used on you is thoroughly sterilised.
7. Always make sure that the syringe being used on you is sealed and never used before.
8. Always make sure that the dialysis equipment being used on you is properly sterilised.
A to E
The different kinds of hepatitis
According to SIUT postgraduate trainee Dr Aisha Nazeer, hepatitis D never occurs on its own. It is a concurrent virus that brings about a chronic stage with its onset with virus B.
SIUT associate professor Dr Nasir Luck also spoke during the video session. According to him, both hepatitis B and C are a result of contact with infected blood or other bodily secretions. On the other hand, hepatitis A and E enter a body through consumption of unhygienic water or food. These viruses are found in the faeces of an infected person, he said.
The incubation period of hepatitis A is four weeks and once a person contracts it, they are likely to never have it again. While the incubation period of hepatitis E is the same as that of A, it might recur, said Luck. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of hepatitis E during their last trimester, he added.
Hepatitis B and C are mainly spread through contact with blood, but bacteria, malaria, unprotected sex, sharing of personal items such as toothbrushes and shaving razors, greatly contribute to the onset of the virus.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.