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Studies show 15m people in Pakistan harbouring hepatitis virus

KARACHI, October 20 (Internews): While the exact magnitude of and extent
of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is unknown in
Pakistan, at least 10 million people are estimated to harbour the former
and 5 million are chronically infected with the latter.

On the basis of cases referred to them doctors here cite prevalence
among general population in Karachi - Pakistan's largest city of 12
million people - to be around 7 per cent to 10 per cent. It is 10 per
cent to 16 per cent in other regions of the country.

A recent study reflects that among the high-risk group, HBV surface
antigenemia range from 7 per cent in doctors, 17 per cent in dentists
and 22 per cent in multiple blood unit recipients to 70 per cent in
liver cancer patients.

"The figures for HBV surface antigen prevalence in healthy blood donors
range from 2.2 per cent to 3.6 per cent," says Dr Abdul Mujib of the
Jinnah Post Graduate Medical Centre.

He cites a study by the Aga Khan University Hospital in Hafizabad in
Punjab province as revealing that the HCV prevalence rate to be 7 per
cent in 1993, which grew to 35 per cent in the next few years.

In a similar study conducted at Karachi, the prevalence was found to be
6.6 per cent among the general public. Among the high-risk groups, the
figures were alarmingly high.

At Agha Khan University Hospital in Punjab, 46 per cent per cent of the
cases on dialysis were registered to be HCV infected.

At Shaikh Zayed Hospital in Lahore, of a small group of 82 patients on
dialysis at least 51 were found to be HCV infected.

In the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, the same
prevalence was 40 per cent amongst all the dialysis patients.

Some of the preliminary studies showed that 80 per cent of patients with
previous cardiac bypass surgery and 90 per cent of thalassaemia major
patients were found to be sero-positive for anti-HCV.

More than a third of the world's population is infected with HBV despite
the implementation of its vaccine and more effective public health
measures.

It is also estimated that of the 350 million chronic carriers of HBV
worldwide, around 75 per cent reside in the Asian region. Healthcare
providers claim that a quarter of these develop serious liver diseases
including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and primary liver cancer.

The United Nations World Health Organisation estimates that HBV results
in one to two million deaths every year around the world.

The HCV although holds a relatively low prevalence rate as compared to
HBV, is the most common cause of chronic liver disease due to the fact
that each new case of acute viral hepatitis has 85 per cent chance of
being added to the growing pool of chronic viral hepatitis. -Internews

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