RAWALPINDI: During the past 20 days of the screening programme in the garrison city, the District Health Authority has detected 34 patients of hepatitis B and 122 of hepatitis C, including eight children under 15 years of age.

The free hepatitis screening programme has been launched by the District Health Authority in collaboration with the Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination to create public awareness of the deadly virus and develop the best course of action to contain its spread.

Director Health Dr Anser Ishaq told Dawn that 156 patients of hepatitis B and C among a population of 20,000 had so far been detected. He said 5,867 of the patients were given the first and over 2,000 second dose of hepatitis B vaccine.

He said the number of patients for rapid test was 444 among 20,000 population of four union councils. However, when their polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was conducted at a laboratory set up at Red Crescent Complex, Saidpur Road, the number reduced to 156.

He said sometimes rapid tests gave a false positive report but it is reconfirmed after the PCR, so both the tests are being done during the ongoing drive. He said the treatment of positive patients had also been started free of cost.

He said two days were fixed for the pathological test of liver function (Tuesday and Wednesday) for the hepatitis patients.

“We will provide vaccination and other medicines after consulting senior medical practitioners without any charges,” he said.

Dr Anser said the programme initially was launched at Khayaban-i-Sir Syed and started in other union councils on August 1. He said 20 teams had been trained for the drive.

An estimated five million people in Pakistan are infected with HBV and 10 million with HCV. It is the second most affected country in the world in terms of prevalence of viral hepatitis.

Thousands of new cases are added every year due to lack of resources for prevention, testing and treatment of this virus.

According to a survey, the overall infection rate of the virus in the general population was 7.6pc.

The programme aimed at prevention of new hepatitis B infections (including mother-to-child transmission), hepatitis C infections, testing and diagnosis of hepatitis B and C and treatment of persons with hepatitis C.

Published in Dawn, September 4th, 2023

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