Leading medical facility, Burjeel Hospital, is marking World Hepatitis Day this weekend with efforts to educate the public about the causes, symptoms and potential severity of the viral disease. There are five strains of the disease, categorised by the first five letters of the alphabet.
Globally, up to 500 million people are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B or C, with 1.5 million a year dying from the disease. Yet, whilst vaccinations are available for the A and B strains, symptoms can lie dormant on a long term basis. This means many of those infected are unknowingly affected, leaving the liver already damaged by the time diagnosis is made.
Symptoms of Hepatitis A, B and C can include fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, stomach pain, a mild fever and jaundice or a pallor to the skin. Hepatitis D only affects those already infected with Hepatitis B, so vaccination against the latter can help to protect from it. Those suffering from Hep A or E may also have acute diarrhea.
These latter two strains (A and E) are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. In contrast, hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of blood-to-blood contact with infected body fluids (e.g. from blood transfusions, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment or sexual contact with an infected person, sexual contact).
For UAE nationals, all tests and treatments related to chronic hepatitis B or C are covered by the health insurances. Unfortuately, for expatriates there is limited coverage of costs related to viral hepatitis B and C. Burjeel Hospital receives many patients infected by all types of viral hepatitis and is also treating patient with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C patients. There are Charities in UAE like the Red Crescent who can take care of patients with chronic viral hepatitis in case of limited financial resources.
“We want to protect the public from viral hepatitis, by raising awareness of the causes and symptoms. Vaccination can prevent viral hepatitis A and B. Early treatment with specific medication can cure chronic viral hepatitis C and can control chronic hepatitis B. Hopefully through this activity we can strive for prevention and, where infection does occur, administer early treatment to avoid long term impact on the patients’ health” said Burjeel Hospital expert for liver diseases, Prof. Dr. Hassan Siegfried Abou-Rebyeh - Consultant and Head of Dept. Gastroenterology and Hepatology.