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Increasing hepatitis cases a huge worry for Punjab

Punjab has become home to seven million hepatitis patients and medics have suggested that the government combat the disease through education, awareness and proper legislation, The Express Tribune has learnt.

Dr Salman Kazmi, who recently wrote a book called Health by Education, which examines 36 different diseases, said the main purpose was to educate children and get people involved in healthy activities so they can remain protected.

“Mainly, people contract hepatitis due to their unhygienic lifestyle, contaminated water and sexual relations,” he said. “If we do not educate our children, it is impossible to eliminate the disease from the country.”

He added hepatitis was a fatal disease and could be prevented by following health principles and adopting precautionary measures. “Children should be given all necessary information on safety measures related to hepatitis so they remain safe,” he added.

Punjab Hepatitis Control Programme Manager Dr Zahida Sarwar also agreed that legislation, education, awareness and introduction of auto-destructible syringes were essential to wipe out these ailments from the masses.

“A renewed emphasis has been laid on awareness, prevention and communication vis-à-vis health education,” she said. “If we have to eliminate hepatitis from Punjab, we have to treat 0.8 to 0.9 million people annually. This shows the extent of the challenge we face,” she added.

Dr Zahuda continued that there was a need to treat a large number of patients and reduce the infectious pool. She said the programme was establishing 101 dedicated hepatitis filter clinics in the province and 58 of them had already started working. The programme registered 40,000 barbers and hair dressers, while safety kits were also provided to them, along with proper training.

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She added the government planned to set up six advanced endoscopy suites and clinics to counter the increase of hepatitis and HIV AIDs in different areas of Punjab. The programme manager said the initiative had procured 0.5 million doses of hepatitis B vaccine, adding this supply was sufficient for one year.

Punjab Minister for Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Minister Khawaja Salman Rafique said all officers and staff of his department worked hard as a team to increase routine immunisation coverage and polio eradication. He said an emphasis was also laid on promoting breastfeeding and thus eliminating hepatitis.

Qusat, Ali. Increasing hepatitis cases a huge worry for Punjab. The Express Tribune, August 1, 2017.

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