Approximately one-third of all hepatitis B and C cases in Pakistan could be prevented by interventions directed towards a few modifiable risk factors, according to a recent study.
The study, conducted by researchers from Aga Khan University in Karachi, is the first to provide a quantitative assessment about the potential reduction in disease prevalence of hepatitis B and C if the risk factors or exposures are removed from the Pakistani population, Dawn.com reports.
“In the overall study population, 34 percent of hepatitis cases could be attributed to at least one of the seven well-established risk factors,” the study said, according to Dawn.com. “Therefore, a substantial number of cases of hepatitis B and C could be prevented by eliminating these risk factors.”
A total of 2.7 percent of hepatitis B and six percent of hepatitis C infections could be prevented by avoiding the reuse of contaminated syringes. Other risk factors include unscreened blood donations, shaving by barbers, reuse of needles for nose and ear piercing, tattooing, improperly sterilized dental and surgical instruments, and sharing of needles by injecting drug users.
The study used data from a 2010 national survey in Pakistan and a systematic review of international studies of the South Asian region.
Viral hepatitis is a major public disease worldwide, with approximately 350 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B virus and approximately 170 million infected with hepatitis C virus, Dawn.com reports.
“(The study) also confirms existence of many of the previously identified common risk factors that are associated with transmission of infection, and that are mostly easily modifiable, in Pakistan,” the study said, according to Dawn.com. “By introducing specific interventions, a substantial number of hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections in Pakistan and other South Asian countries can be prevented.”