PESHAWAR, Oct 21: The hospitals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been recording more than 60 per cent relapse cases of hepatitis C mainly owing to lack of awareness among the patients that they require to be tested for virus every six months after the treatment, according to health experts.
“We have been recording relapses between 60 to 80 per cent of hepatitis patients owing to lack of awareness among people. The people are under misconception that negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) means that hepatitis C virus has completely been treated which is not the case,” a senior physician told Dawn.
He said that worldwide studies about the disease had shown that patients should undergo PCR test every six months after their PCR became negative.
According to unpublished studies, hepatitis B and C was prevalent among five per cent population of the province owing to use of contaminated syringes and instruments by health practitioners in public and private sectors, the physician said.
“We can curb hepatitis by making obligatory upon the hospitals to use sterilised instruments in operations theaters and avoid reuse of disposable syringes in emergency departments of the hospitals,” he said.
The health expert said that relapse of hepatitis was a matter of concern.
He said that virus existed in the blood for too long and could cause disease any time.
“When it is clear that the disease is not fully curable and the patients have to be evaluated after treatment, then the focus should be on the preventive side of the disease,” the physician said.
Special secretary health Prof Noorul Iman told Dawn that under the hepatitis control programme Rs800 million were being spent to cure people suffering from B or C types of the disease besides creating awareness about its causative agents.
“People will be informed to contact the relevant programme in the hospitals even after their PCR tests negative,” he said, adding that it was very important to ensure that the patients got treatment to a satisfactory level.
Prof Iman said that banners regarding availability of free treatment for hepatitis patients had been displayed at all teaching and district headquarters hospitals to inform people about the programme and register maximum number of patients.
There was no guarantee that the ailment had been treated fully and a test after every six months was compulsory according to global guidelines, he said.
“Ninety-five per cent hepatitis B patients doesn’t need treatment as they recover while 95 per cent of those afflicted with C type of the disease have to get regular treatment,” Prof Iman said.
He said relapse patients were still curable with another type of injection given every week instead of three injections administered a week to normal patients.
The special health secretary said that government had allocated Rs500 million last year for free hepatitis treatment in the province but utilised only Rs200 million.
The health department, which had Rs300 million left from last year, received Rs500 million this year and now has a total balance of Rs800 million that will be spent on the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Prof Iman said that in view of the rapid spread of the disease in the province, the government had allocated Rs1 billion for free treatment of hepatitis patients during the last two years.
Injections and diagnostic kits had been supplied to the district headquarters hospitals, he said, adding that all the three programmes were given directly under the control of director-general health services that showed good results.