Dubai, UAE: The medical fraternity around the world observes World Hepatitis Day on July 28.
Viral hepatitis, an infectious disease with different deadly strains, is posing a real threat to global health in this day and age when the world has become a global village. People are taking more transatlantic flights and crossing hemispheres in search of work, tourism and other interests as never before.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that nearly 400 million people have chronic viral hepatitis worldwide and most of them do not know they are infected. More than one million people die each year from causes related to viral hepatitis, commonly cirrhosis and liver cancer.
It is important for people in the UAE to acknowledge the threat of this virus as many residents from this region travel to sub-Saharan Africa where hepatitis C is known to have affected nearly 32 million people, according to International SOS — the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services company.
Dr Mariam Al Khateri, President of Emirates Gastroenterology Society, issues a word of caution about hepatitis C, the common strain infecting people. “Hepatitis C is a silent disease which often goes unnoticed and misdiagnosed as the symptoms do not develop for years, and when they do they can be similar to symptoms of other diseases. The disease is curable and people can go back to their normal lives if detected early and treated accurately. Hence, we urge people to identify symptoms and undertake screening tests without delay. Through our HCV Patient (hepatitis C Virus) Accelerate programme run in association with charities in the UAE, we are not only educating people on HCV but also helping patients in need to get the best treatment,”
Let us take a minute to understand the etiology of the infection and its threat to UAE residents.
What is hepatitis?
Dr Mariam explains: “Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis [scarring], cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (eg alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
Dr Salwan Ebrahim, the deputy regional medical director for International SOS, adds: “There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. The causes of hepatitis depend on the particular strain of the virus. Hepatitis A and E are contracted though the consumption of contaminated food or water, whereas hepatitis B, C and D are a blood-borne and sexually transmitted disease, which means the virus is transmitted via blood, blood products and body fluid.”
© Gulf NewsJul 2014