September 9, 2013

Appna Seminar: Hepatitis C incidence in Punjab ‘alarming’

By Our Correspondent

Published: September 8, 2013

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Incidence of hepatitis C in some districts is as high as 13.1 per cent, experts warn.

LAHORE: The hepatitis C incidence in the Punjab has reached alarming proportions, ranging from 6.6 per cent to 13.1 per cent in various districts, said a hepatitis expert at a seminar here on Friday.

By comparison, the hepatitis C incidence in India ranges from 1.1 per cent to 2 per cent, said Dr Maqbool Arshad, the chair of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (Appna) Hepatitis C programme, at the seminar, which was organised by the King Edward Alumni Association, an Appna component.

Dr Arsahd said that there were three million hepatitis C sufferers in Pakistan, who would go on to suffer liver failure and oesophageal varices, which bleed and lead to slow death. “There will be up to three million deaths [in Pakistan due to hepatitis C] in the next one or two decades,” he said.

Most people can’t afford liver transplants, he said. There is also an alarmingly high incidence of liver cancer, one of the most common cancers in Pakistan, he added.

Hepatitis C is commonly spread through reuse of needles among drug addicts and blood transfusion, he said, adding that up to 25 per cent of blood transfusions occur without screening the donor’s blood. The use of low quality disinfectants for sterilisation of dental and surgical instruments and poor hygiene practices at barber shops and beauty parlours are also sources of infection.

Dr Muhammad Abid from the United Kingdom also addressed the seminar.

The experts at the seminar recommended various measures to curb the hepatitis C infection rate, including use of auto-destructive syringes; registration of hepatitis C screening kits and removal of defective kits from the market; enforcement of proper medical waste disposal to eliminate the recycling of disposable equipment; and cutting out unnecessary injections. The experts estimated that 90% of injections given in Pakistan were unnecessary.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 8th, 2013.

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