Pakistan currently holds the highest number of viral hepatitis C infections worldwide


Karachi: 17 April 2024: A concerning report from the World Health Organization (WHO) has highlighted that Pakistan currently holds the highest number of viral hepatitis C infections worldwide, with approximately 8.8 million cases, making up 44 percent of all new hepatitis C infections attributed to unsafe medical injections.

In previous years, Egypt had reported the largest number of hepatitis C and B cases, followed by Pakistan.

Data from 187 countries indicates that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis has increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these fatalities, 83 percent were caused by hepatitis B and 17 percent by hepatitis C, as per the report.

When combining the cases of hepatitis B and hepatitis C, Pakistan ranks fifth globally, following China, India, Indonesia, and Nigeria, with approximately 12.6 million cases reported in 2022.

According to the WHO's Global Hepatitis Report 2024, ten countries collectively account for nearly two-thirds of the global burden of viral hepatitis B and C. Alongside Pakistan, these countries include Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Russian Federation.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection primarily transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. Here are the most common ways a person can get Hepatitis C:

Injection Drug Use: Sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs can transmit the Hepatitis C virus if they are contaminated with the blood of someone who has the virus.

Blood Transfusions or Organ Transplants: Before widespread screening of blood donors for Hepatitis C began in 1992, blood transfusions and organ transplants were common modes of transmission.

Medical Procedures: Inadequately sterilized medical equipment, such as needles and syringes, in healthcare settings can also transmit the virus.

Birth: A mother infected with Hepatitis C can transmit the virus to her baby during childbirth, though this occurs less frequently than with Hepatitis B.

Occupational Exposure: Healthcare workers or first responders may be at risk if they accidentally come into contact with the blood of someone who has the virus.

Tattooing and Body Piercing: If the equipment used for tattooing or body piercing is not properly sterilized, it can lead to Hepatitis C transmission.

Sexual Contact: Although less common, Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity, especially among individuals with multiple sexual partners or in the presence of other sexually transmitted infections that cause open sores or bleeding.

It's important to note that Hepatitis C is not spread through casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sharing eating utensils, or breastfeeding. Additionally, the virus is not transmitted through food or water.

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