Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Awareness is key to stopping hepatitis spread in Bangladesh, says expert

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2018-07-30 01:31:36 BdST


The chairman of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University’s Hepatology Department has urged the people to be aware of the viral hepatitis which can lead to liver damage, if undiagnosed and untreated.

Prof Dr Mamum-Al-Mahtab, also the General Secretary of South Asian Association for the Study of Liver, at a discussion on Sunday said about 10 million people in Bangladesh are infected with different types of hepatitis.

“If the Hepatitis 'B' and 'C' which are responsible for most liver cancer are not addressed, the dream of the developed Bangladesh in 2041 will not be fulfilled,” he said, as liver cancer is a major killer in Bangladesh.

He presented the keynote at the discussion organsied by the Forum for the Study of Liver Bangladesh marking World Hepatitis Day which was globally observed on Saturday. He is the chairman of that forum.

National Professor Dr Anisuzzaman, Health, Population Secretary of Bangladesh Awami League Dr Rokeya Sultana, Adviser of the Forum Prof Dr Harisul Haq, Convener of Sampritee Bangladesh Piyush Bandyopadhyay, and President of Bangladesh Private Medical Practitioners Association Prof Moniruzzaman Bhuiyan spoke at the discussion, among others.

According to the WHO, millions of people across the world and also in the South-East Asia Region are infected with viral hepatitis without knowing and without receiving treatment.

Both worldwide and in the region, less than one in 10 infected people are estimated to know their status, while less than 10 percent of those who do know their status are receiving appropriate treatment.

This lack of awareness and treatment leads to progressive liver damage and can cause life-threatening conditions such as fibrosis and liver cancer, resulting in an estimated 410 000 deaths in the region every year.

It also allows viral hepatitis to spread: Region-wide, an estimated 40 million people live with chronic hepatitis B while an estimated 10 million live with chronic hepatitis C.

Urgent action is needed to find, test and treat the missing millions suffering viral hepatitis and achieve the time-bound targets of WHO South-East Asia’s Regional Action Plan, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said in her World Hepatitis Day message.

That includes ensuring at least 50 percent of infected people know their status and at least 75 percent of those diagnosed with the disease are provided treatment by 2020.

Ninety percent or more of newborns should meanwhile receive the hepatitis B vaccine’s birth dose, while at least 95 percent of children should complete the vaccine’s three-dose schedule. Increased injection safety in health facilities is likewise critical.

To achieve these outcomes and eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030, as envisaged in WHO’s Global Health Sector Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, greater awareness among high-risk groups and the general public is key, the regional director had said.