Life threatening liver infection disease hepatitis caused by viruses became a public health concern in Bangladesh.
The country already has 10 million hepatitis B and C patients and working youths in the 18-29 age bracket are at higher risk of hepatitis infection in the country, a study revealed.
‘Prevalence and Risk Factors of Hepatitis B and C Virus Infections in Bangladesh: A Nationwide Population Based Survey’ was jointly carried out by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, ICDDR,B and University of Florida College of Medicine.
The survey report was unveiled Thursday on the eve of World Hepatitis Day.
On Saturday the World Hepatitis Day will be observed.
Test, Treat Hepatitis was chosen by the World Health Organization as this year’s theme for observing the day.
Out of five types of the viral disease, hepatitis B and C, the root causes of liver cancer and cirrhosis, with 325 million patients pose serious public health challenge for the world.
The survey revealed that Bangladesh’s 8.5 million people were infected with hepatitis B virus and 1.5 million others with hepatitis C virus.
The survey was randomly done on 2,713 people between December 2015 and January 2017 in the capital and the towns of Feni, Mymensingh, Bogra and Patuakhali and rural areas in Chatkhil, Bheramara, Keraniganj and Pabna sadar upazila.
The people surveyed were those who came forward responding to invitations of the public address system though they were not told the purpose of the study.
But the respondents’ permission was taken once they came forward after telling them the purpose of the study.
The sample survey revealed that 5.1 per cent of the respondents were infected with hepatitis B virus and the prevalence was higher among youths in the 18-29 age, among whom the prevalence was 6.3 per cent.
Males were found to have higher hepatitis B prevalence of 6.3 per cent compared to 3.2 per cent among the female respondents.
The people with family history of liver diseases were found to have the higher prevalence of hepatitis B infection of 11.8 per cent.
Urban people were found to have a higher prevalence of hepatitis B of 5.4 per cent compared to 3.8 per cent among their rural compatriots.
Farmers were found to have the higher prevalence of 8.9 per cent, for businessmen it was 7.6 per cent and 4.8 per cent for the service holders.
The sample survey revealed that 5.7 million males and 2.8 million females were infected with hepatitis B.
According to the sample survey, 1.5 million people or 0.2 per cent of the people had hepatitis C infection.
The hepatitis C prevalence among people above 30 was 0.64 per cent.
People with family history of liver diseases were found to have 0.66 per cent prevalence.
Doctors said that hepatitis B and C were chronic infections with the symptoms remaining dormant for as long as decades.
At least 60 per cent of liver cancer occurs due to delay in testing and taking treatments of viral hepatitis B and C, they said.
Lead researcher and BSMMU hepatology associate professor Shahinul Alam said that 95 per cent of the hepatitis B and C patients could remain unaware about their conditions for long.
‘Hepatitis infection could advance silently and slowly with little or no symptoms,’ he said, adding, ‘Tests is
the best way to detect infection to facilitate early treatment.’
Dr Alam advised the authorities to introduce countrywide free diagnostic tests especially at the upazila and district hospitals to protect people from costly and lifelong treatments of hepatitis infections.
He said the treatment of hepatitis B and C was possible in Bangladesh at low costs but the problem was that not all the latest drugs were available here.
He advised the government to include the drugs for hepatitis treatments in the list of lifesaving medicines to ensure their easy availability at low costs.
Liver disease expert and BSMMU former hepatology chairman Mobin Khan said that a hepatitis B patient requires to spend at least Tk 50 to 80 per day as long as they live.
For the hepatitis C patients the cost of treatment for 12 weeks could vary between Tk 60,000 and Tk 90,000, he said.
Health Services director for disease control Sanya Tahmina told New Age that the government, committed to eliminate hepatitis by 2030, took steps to this end.
She said the government was planning to introduce hepatitis screening facilities at l upazila hospitals.
Sanya Tahmina said that the government recently began free supply of hepatitis C medicines to patients at government hospitals and that children were freely immunized with hepatitis B vaccine.
Sanya said the government also has decided to screen doctors, nurses and pathologists for providing them with free supply of the required medicines if they were found to have hepatitis B or C infections.