Sep 24 - 30, 2007

Around the world, almost 600 million people are infected with either Hepatitis-B or C and both forms of viral hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplantation and yet both can often be treated effectively, and in many cases, even cured.

Health professionals told PAGE that a total of 400 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B, and about half that number are chronically infected with hepatitis C. Together, these diseases are responsible for the majority of hepatocellular carcinoma cases, the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide.

In countries like Pakistan, increase has been witnessed in cases of Hepatitis mainly due to use of polluted water, unhygienic environment, unsafe sex and other related problems.

With an estimated 15 million carriers of Hepatitis in the country, health experts have called upon the government to launch a special campaign on emergency basis to check the spread of disease, which is on rise at horrifying magnitude on account of use of polluted water, reusing of infected needles/syringes, dental and other invasive health care services. They urged the government to chalk out a comprehensive plan, involving all the community leaders, medical experts, opinion makers and other stake holders to wage joint efforts in combating the disease by disseminating the message of taking preventive measures against it.

According to them, Hepatitis was a major public health problem all over the world and over one million chronically infected persons die each year due to Hepatitis-B infection and its complications while Hepatitis-C virus infects 3-4 million persons each year.

According to the Punjab Health Minister Chaudhry Muhammad Iqbal proper health care with free medicines is being provided to the gastroenterology patients by the health department in the public sector hospitals of the province.

According to him, there is no unusual rise of gastroenteritis/acute watering diarrhea (AWD) in the province. However, gastroenteritis is completely curable and if anyone becomes the patient of gastroenteritis infection he should immediately contact the doctor or public sector hospital for free of cost treatment facility.

He said the government was taking concrete steps for the complete eradication of TB and medicines worth Rs one billion were being distributed among the patients of TB free of cost in the small districts of the province.

He appealed the ulema to come forward and help the government to create awareness among general public against the menace of smoking and its results i.e. TB, cancer and other fatal diseases and also persuade the people for the success of DOTS. He said it was the joint responsibility of teachers, parents, public opinion leaders and particularly the ulema to play their effective role in this social service.

He further said that Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) aims at reducing morbidity, disabilities and mortality caused by seven vaccine preventable diseases namely Childhood Tuberculosis, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Measles, Neonatal tetanus and Hepatitis-B by vaccinating all children below one year of age, in addition, all pregnant women are vaccinated against tetanus. The priority targets of the programme are polio eradication followed by elimination of Neonatal Tetanus and Measles, he added. He said that the health, department is successfully running EPI and GAVI programmes to save the children from preventable diseases and last year EPI coverage remained 81 percent in the province. According to him, health authorities in the province have been directed to spare no efforts in the treatment and proper care of gastroenteritis patients. Adequate supply of necessary medicines i.e. ORS, Glucose/Drips etc. has been ensured by the government in this regard, whereas, sufficient stock of medicines for the treatment of gastroenteritis has been stored with the district health authorities. Health authorities have also been directed to continue awareness campaign through mass media and also conduct seminars apart from activating lady health workers for individual contacts to teach the people regarding protective measures from gastroenteritis as well as the

use of boiled water for drinking and domestic ice use making, proper hand washing with soap after defecation and before eating, avoiding the vender edibles including ice balls, substandard beverages & ice cream, cut fruit, uncovered/unhygienic food items.







If the fasting is observed with true spirit and simple and balanced food is taken at the time of "Sehar" and "Iftar", the faithful will definitely see psychological and physical benefits.

This was stated by the chairman Pakistan Medical Society (PMS) Dr Masood Akhtar Sheikh while talking to PAGE regarding "Fasting and its health benefits".

Dr Masood Sheikh said that simple and balanced fiber rich diet taken at the time of 'Sehar' will slowly release the glucose and can maintain satiety and sugar level longer, and thus be used instead of refined bakery items and fruit juices. 'Brown flour is better than the white flour. Dates and milk, if available in pure form, are the most balanced diet on the earth', he added.

He pointed out that most peoples continues 'Sehar' till "nemaz-e Fajar" and than start the prayer, this may result in regurgitation of food and may end up in heart burns or gastric intolerance. Similarly heavy consumption of "Samosas" and "Pakoras" are bad for health. Oily, spicy, salty foods and fast food must be avoided to maintain good health. He advised that only moderate quantity of water should be taken at 'Sehar' as excessive water is excreted by the kidney.

Dr Masood Sheikh said that fasting result in depletion of fats from skin and deeply seated internal organ thus reduces weight and resulting in better control of diabetes (especially type II), blood pressure and decreasing risk of coronary artery diseases. The fasting by virtue of fat and weight reduction enhances the sexual and reproductive capability and is beneficial in some types of infertility and disease of women like PCO'S. The patients with the mild renal disease will also be benefited.

He said that pregnant women should take extra allowance at the time of 'Sehar' and 'Iftar', as they need more for growing baby. Some disease may need the dose adjustment like patients on anti hypertensives can take tablets twice or once at Sehar. The patients on diuretics should take at Iftar, he added.

Patients on renal dialysis, Type-I diabetes mellitus controlled on insulin should avoid fasting unless permitted by their treating physicians. Similar those with terminal disease, pregnant ladies not properly maintaining blood sugar during fasting should also be careful.