RAWALPINDI: In Union Council 10 of Khayaban-i-Sir Syed in Rawalpindi, 71 people tested positive for hepatitis C while 32 people were found positive for hepatitis B during a screening programme launched by the district health authority in collaboration with the global hepatitis elimination programme.

During the first four days of the campaign, over 6,800 people were tested for the disease in the pilot phase which targets Pindi’s UC-10. Initially, 10,000 people of all ages will be targeted through a door-to-door screening and vaccination drive. After the completion of the pilot phase, the programme will cover four union councils of Rawal Town – over 100,000 people.

Director Health Dr Anser Ishaq told Dawn that in the last four days, as many as 71 cases of hepatitis C and 32 cases of hepatitis B emerged. “Only 10 people knew about their disease before the screening while 61 hepatitis C cases were unaware,” he said.

The medical treatment of the patients started immediately free of cost and it would continue over the next three months. “We will provide vaccination and other medicines…without any charges,” he said.

More than 6,800 people tested in pilot phase of anti-hepatitis project

He said that the programme was initially launched in Khayaban-i-Sir Syed and it will be expanded to other union councils from August 1. He said that for the pathological examination of the blood samples, the authority established a laboratory in Benazir Bhutto Hospital to conduct an examination on a daily basis.

“In the last four days, 6,829 persons were screened for hepatitis; 32 are affected with hepatitis B and 71 positive with hepatitis C. “We vaccinated 2,017 people in the union council while 414 people refused to give samples,” he said.

He said that efforts were being made to convince the people to get their medical tests so the government could provide them with free medical treatment without any further delay. He said the biggest problem was the lack of awareness among people about this deadly virus. “Viral hepatitis B and C cause 1.1 million deaths and three million new infections worldwide each year,” he said.

15m hepatitis cases

An estimated 5 million people in Pakistan are infected with HBV and 10 million are infected with HCV. It is the second most affected country in the world in terms of the prevalence of viral hepatitis. The briefing further stated that thousands of new cases are added every year due to a lack of resources for prevention, testing and treatment of this virus.

According to a survey, the overall infection rate of this virus in the general population is 7.6%. Prevention of new hepatitis B infections (including mother-to-child transmission) under this programme, prevention of new hepatitis C infections, testing and diagnosis of hepatitis B and hepatitis C, treatment of persons with hepatitis C, facilitating care and ensuring follow-up.

He further said that the free hepatitis programme would ensure healthy environment in the community, surveillance of epidemics in the catchment area and generation of quality data.

The programme has been launched in the Rawalpindi district by District Health Authority in collaboration with Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination and aims to create awareness among the public about this disease as well as find the volume which is to be investigated to prevent it as well as to develop the best course of action to contain its spread in the future.

Published in Dawn, July 14th, 2023

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