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LAHORE, July 28: Awareness and legislation are most effective weapons against hepatitis, says a health expert.

Statistics show that 8 to 10 per cent of the Pakistani population is affected by the life-threatening disease, Lahore General Hospital’s Prof Dr Ghayasun Nabi Tayyab said at a seminar in connection with the 5th World Hepatitis Day at a hotel here on Saturday.

Prof Tayyab, vice-president of the Pakistan Society of Gastroenterology and GI Endoscopy and consultant gastroenterologist, said approximately one out of 12 persons or around 500 million people were suffering from hepatitis globally and most of them did not know they were infected. He said people in developed and underdeveloped countries were equally suffering from hepatitis. He said viral hepatitis was among top 10 infectious diseases. “Chronic Hepatitis B and C cause approximately 80 per cent of liver cancers,” Prof Tayyab said. He said Pakistan, being a high prevalence country for infectious hepatitis, had to take steps on war footing to prevent the spread of hepatitis.

The health expert said eradication of this disease from the country could be possible only through better awareness, prevention, care, support and access to treatment at all levels. He said engaging professionals like doctors, health workers, social workers and beauty salons and effective legislation on the health issue would also prove helpful. He said Hepatitis A and E viruses were very common in Pakistan because they were found in unsafe food and water. He said supply of clean drinking water and improved sanitation could check the spread of these types of hepatitis substantially.

He said Hepatitis B and C were the result of careless use of syringes, unsafe blood transfusion, use of unsterilised equipment in dental procedures, piercing and other beauty procedures such as pedicure. “HBV spread can be prevented through mass vaccination and a very effective therapy is available for those infected,” he said. HCV infection can be treated effectively in a large number of people if detected early, but there is no preventive vaccine yet.

Also, Shaikh Zayed Hospital’s department of gastroenterology and hepatology organised a hepatitis awareness walk, free hepatitis screening camp and a public awareness seminar on Saturday. Shalimar Hospital organised a camp for free screening of hepatitis patients, medical check-up and provision of Hepatitis B vaccine at subsidised rates.