“ Approximately 25% of the total patients at UM Healthcare Trust are Hepatitis patients” – Dr.Qasim
Viral Hepatitis is a serious global concern and one of the major challenges towards achieving the health, related United Nations Millennium Development Goals. It is leading to a significant increase in mortality rate worldwide. Pakistan has hepatitis as one of the ten communicable diseases. The WHO places over 15 million carriers of the virus in the country. The calculated cost of treating all carriers in Pakistan is well in excess of PKR 250 billion (WHO). In terms of mortality and cost, it is expected to dramatically increase over the next decade.
There are over 12 million carriers of Hepatitis virus in Pakistan as estimated by World Health Organization. This number is rising fast due to its unchecked spread in rural communities. There exist five type of hepatitis i.e A, B, C, D and E and of them, B and C are the leading cause of liver cancer. A total of 7.4 per cent of population is infected with hepatitis of which 2.6 per cent are infected with hepatitis B while 4.7 per cent with hepatitis C.
The Hepatitis virus is caused by many factors including, but not limited to, person-to-person (fecal-oral), exposure to infective bodily fluids (blood, saliva, semen etc), and waterborne diseases. In rural Pakistan the tap water is still not prevalent and villagers still drink straight out of a well. At the same time, due to lack of central sewerage system in rural communities, the waste is stored in another well not far from the drinking water well. With such wells multiplied over thousands in rural communities, the problem of sewerage waste mixing with untreated drinking water rises and thus causes acute crisis and spread of Viral Hepatitis and other waterborne diseases in rural communities.
Although millions of Pakistanis are infected with the Hepatitis virus, there is a surprising dearth of information about its prevalence. Policymakers and health providers at the global, national and community level need accurate and timely data in order to gauge the effectiveness of existing policies and programs as well as to shape new ones.