Pakistan Now Has the Highest Burden of Hepatitis C in the World

Karachi (Muhammad Yasir) Pakistan is now home to the world’s largest population of patients living with Hepatitis C, surpassing even China and India. Despite a government commitment to eliminating hepatitis by 2030,  the prevalence of Hepatitis C has steadily increased, to the point that there are now nearly 10 Million Pakistanis today living with viremic hepatitis C, who need to be diagnosed and treated. In 2020 alone, over 461,000 new cases of Hepatitis C were added to the pool, a higher incidence of new cases than any other country. These statistics were revealed by leading epidemiologist Dr. Homie Razavi from the Center for Disease Analaysis (CDA) in the United States. Dr. Razavi runs the Polaris Observatory, the world’s largest database on viral hepatitis.

Experts at the 16th annual conference of the Pakistan Society for the Study of Liver Diseases (PSSLD) in Karachi included Prof. Amna Subhan, Prof. Saeed Hamid from Aga Khan University Hospital, Prof. Wasim Jafri from South City Hospital, and Prof. Zaigham Abbas from Ziauddin University Hospital. Speakers highlighted the damage caused by the unchecked spread of Hepatitis C, as a result of which liver cancer is now the fastest growing cancer in in the country.

Speakers urged the federal and provincial governments to scale up their programs to eliminate Hepatitis C, to meet WHO Elimination goals, which would save over 150,000 lives and prevent over 100,000 new cases of liver cancer between now and 2030.

Over 15 million people suffer from Hepatitis B and C in Pakistan, making hepatitis the biggest killer among communicable diseases. Hepatitis B and C are both blood-borne diseases that are spread through unsafe injections, unsanitary practices at hospitals, dental clinics and tattoo parlours, among other causes.  Experts also urged the vaccination of women of child-bearing age for Hepatitis E. Unprecedented floods have exacerbated the spread of Hepatitis E, exposing over 75,000 expecting mothers to the risk of this potentially fatal virus.