Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is raising awareness about preventing viral hepatitis, which is vital to achieving the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global strategy of eliminating the disease by 2030.
HMC ensures all awareness activities addressing viral hepatitis are a step towards elimination, greater awareness, increased diagnosis and key interventions. Ongoing activities include vaccination, blood and injection safety, harm reduction and cutting-edge treatment.
Dr Hussam al-Soub, senior consultant, HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit, said HMC is already on the path toward eliminating viral hepatitis in Qatar. The Corporation has been implementing treatments for the disease with good results and there have been no recent major incidences of the disease in the country.
“Every child born in Qatar is vaccinated against hepatitis B as part of the government’s childhood immunisation programme. Vaccination at birth is the reason for the marked decline in the prevalence of hepatitis B in countries that have implemented this vaccine,” said Dr al-Soub.
The WHO describes viral hepatitis as an inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection which affects millions of people worldwide and causes close to 1.4mn deaths every year.
Dr al-Soub explained that viral hepatitis is caused by five main viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. “Viral hepatitis is considered a “silent killer”. An infected person may show limited or no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they include, dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain,” said Dr al-Soub.
He explained that hepatitis A and E are typically transmitted through contaminated food or drinks. Hepatitis B and C can be contracted by needle sharing. “Hepatitis can also be caused by the transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, especially in places where blood is not tested properly; through a mother to her child during pregnancy; and by sexual contact,” he explained, adding that people with hepatitis B can also get infected with hepatitis D, resulting in more severe complications.
“Pregnant women should be tested for hepatitis, so that if they are infected, protective measures such as the hepatitis B vaccine and immunoglobulin can be given to the newborn baby. Otherwise, there is a 90% risk that the child will become infected.”
Dr al-Soub advised people travelling to countries where viral hepatitis is prevalent to observe precautions such as getting vaccinated at the Mesaimeer Health Centre. “The available vaccines are effective in protecting against viral hepatitis. Other ways to avoid the disease are to ensure proper hygiene and sanitation in living areas, safe drinking water and properly cooked food. It is also advised to avoid food from street vendors.”
Every year, July 28 is observed as World Hepatitis Day.
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