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LAHORE: Expressing concern over greater risk of water-borne diseases such as hepatitis-E, malaria, dengue, and cholera in flood-hit areas, health professionals have called for launching a mass hepatitis-E vaccination drive there.

“Due to floods, stagnant flood water spreading over one third of the country may take up to six months to recede, increasing the risks of water-borne diseases,” the experts said, adding: “It is being reported that at least 128,000 pregnant women in flood-hit areas urgently need care with 42,000 expected to give birth in the next three months. A lesser known but dangerous form of Hepatitis is Hepatitis-E, which is water-borne, and in Pakistan, is already one of the leading causes of death in expecting mothers.”

Speaking to the media, here on Wednesday, Prof Dr Asif Gull, Head of gastroenterologist Unit Services Hospital Lahore and Dr Israr ul Haq Toor, a leading Gastroenterologist & Hepatolgist of Lahore (LGH) said, “The devastating floods have worsened the situation to catastrophic proportions. Luckily, a vaccine for Hepatitis-E is available in Pakistan; hence, the government, medical community and our civil society as a whole must come together in the face of this adversity and rally behind our flood victims by ensuring that they have access to the Hepatitis-E vaccine.”

It may be noted that Pakistan had high maternal mortality rates – a result of lack of access to healthcare facilities and education, malnutrition and poverty.

They maintained that women in the rural areas already face reproductive health issues due to a dearth of even basic maternal healthcare facilities as well as trained qualified female doctors.

When natural calamities strike, pregnancy and childbirth put women at great risk and increase their vulnerability especially if they are displaced, living in camps and tents which are far from the city centers and without healthcare facilities, they said.

They added that the vaccine for the prevention of Hepatitis-E is freely available in Pakistan, which is given as three doses that are given Intra muscular at 0, 1 and 6 months apart. The vaccine has minimal side effects and the immunity/protection lasts for 10 years.

The government bodies, private sectors, and relief agencies need to join hands to raise awareness around this important public health challenge and work to vaccinate our most vulnerable populations on a war footing, they said.

On the other hand, the faculty and administrative heads of the University of Health Sciences (UHS) decided in a meeting to adopt the Punjab government’s policy regarding the in-service death benefits to the families of deceased employees. In this regard, UHS VC directed the finance department to move a summary.

It was also decided that all departments would conduct an audit of their programmes and submit a report within a week before admissions. Apart from this, the opinion of experts from other universities would also be taken to improve the standards.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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