Viral Hepatitis causes 1.4 million deaths every year globally; HMC raises awareness on preventive measures against the disease
In observance of World Hepatitis Day, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is again raising awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis as well as highlighting the importance of measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
“Every child born in Qatar is vaccinated against hepatitis B as part of the government’s childhood immunization program. Vaccination at birth is the reason for the marked decline in the prevalence of hepatitis B in countries that have implemented this vaccine, including Qatar,” said HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit Senior Consultant, Dr. Hussam Al Soub.
The World Health Organization (WHO) describes viral hepatitis as an inflammation of the liver caused by viral infection, which affects millions of people worldwide and causes close to 1.4 million deaths every year.
“Viral hepatitis is caused by five main viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. It is considered a “silent killer” as an infected person may show limited or no symptoms. When there are symptoms, these include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain,” said HMC Infectious Diseases Unit Senior Consultant, Dr. Hussam Al Soub.
He explained that hepatitis A and E are typically transmitted through contaminated food or drinks while hepatitis B and C can be contracted by needle sharing (when a syringe is shared by more than one person to inject intravenous drugs). “Hepatitis can also be caused: by the transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, especially in places where the blood is not tested properly; through a mother to her child; and by sexual contact,” he explained, adding that people with hepatitis B can also get infected with hepatitis D, resulting in more severe complications.
“If a person is infected with hepatitis A and E, the infection will most likely go away on its own and without ongoing liver disease. Hepatitis B and C, on the other hand, can become chronic and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer,” said Dr. Al Soub highlighting the importance of regular medical check-ups for the early detection of hepatitis.
“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 percent risk that the child will become infected.”
Dr. Al Soub advised people traveling to countries where viral hepatitis is prevalent to observe precautions such as getting vaccinated at the Mesaimeer Health Center. “The available vaccines are very 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.”