Viral hepatitis is a serious global public health problem. At present, six distinct types of hepatitis virus have been identified and called as hepatitis A, B, C, D, E and G viruses. Hepatitis C is a most dangerous because it is a “silent infection” that can infect people without them knowing it. Hepatitis C quietly and continuously attacks and damage the liver over many years without being detected. It is the liver disease caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV). It causes chronic liver disease and liver cancer. Therefore, the role of health care professionals is very significant in alleviating the prevalence and burden of hepatitis C from Pakistan.
In Pakistan, hepatitis C viral infections mostly spread due to:
- Transfusion of unscreened blood.
- Transfer through shared or re-used needles.
- Poorly sterilized medical equipments.
- Improper sterilization of invasive medical devices used in surgery and other internal examinations of the patient.
- Reuse of syringes by health care providers for common ailments.
- Transfer from an infected mother to her newborn baby during delivery.
- jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- abdominal pain
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
Once an individual acquires hepatitis C, it brings a number of challenges that are not only limited to the physical suffering but also affect the psychological, social and financial issues throughout his life No vaccine against hepatitis C is available. However, there are a number of vaccines under development and some have shown encouraging results. A combination of harm reduction strategies, such as the provision of new needles and syringes and treatment of substance use, decreases the risk of hepatitis C in intravenous drug users by about 75%.
HCV induces chronic infection in 50–80% of infected persons. Approximately 40–80% of these clear with treatment. According to the NIH, Hepatitis C will resolve on its own over several weeks or months. Chronic hepatitis C infections (which do not get better on their own after a few months) may be treated with antiviral medications such as pegylated interferon injections. Ribavirin (trade name Copegus, Rebetol, Ribasphere) is used for the treatment for hepatitis C. However, ribavairin must be taken with peginterferon in order for it to be an effective treatment against hepatitis C. Otherwise, liver transplants may be necessary if the liver is severely damaged.