Monday, July 8, 2013

Hepatitis C virus a major challenge for this region, WCMC-Q expert warns

Doha, May 14, 2013. About 150 million people worldwide  are chronically infected and at risk of developing liver cirrhosis and/or liver cancer, and more than 350 000 people die from Hepatitis C virus (HCV) related liver diseases every year, Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad said last night at a community health forum in Doha.
Dr. Abu-Raddad was addressing the monthly Medicine & U health outreach program at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in Education City.
“While HCV currently affects less than two per cent of the world’s population, Egypt has by far the highest HCV prevalence in the world with about 15 per cent of its population infected with the virus. This striking difference is a result of a tragic HCV epidemic in Egypt that has been described as the world’s largest iatrogenic transmission epidemic of a blood borne pathogen,” Dr. Abu-Raddad said.
Hepatitis C virus is a major cause of liver disease and liver cancer. It is usually spread through the sharing of infected needles, receiving infected blood and other exposures to blood or bodily fluids. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, 3–4 million people are newly infected with HCV.
“The epidemic ironically started as a consequence of health care campaigns conducted from the 1950s to the early 1980s against schistosomiasis (known commonly as bilharzia). Addressing Hepatitis C in Egypt is one of the largest health challenges faced by this country today, and has strained its resources by dealing with a large pool of about six million chronically infected people. Recent evidence suggests that the anti-schistosomiasis campaigns were not the only drivers of this epidemic. Some of those drivers continue to be in play today resulting in on-going HCV transmission in Egypt,” Dr. Abu-Raddad said.
In his presentation, Dr. Abu-Raddad described how the HCV epidemic has emerged including the contextual factors surrounding its emergence. Causes of current new infections and the latest advances in scientific research on this epidemic were highlighted and the talk included a discussion of the key priorities in relation to prevention programs and scientific research.
 Dr. Abu-Raddad is Associate Professor of Public Health, principal investigator of the Infectious Disease Group and director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Biomathematics Research Core at WCMC-Q.

Hepatitis C Fact Sheet
·       Hepatitis is a term that means inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis C infection is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).
·       HCV was first identified in 1989.
·       Currently it affects less than 2% of the world’s population.
·       Every year, 3–4 million people are newly infected with HCV. About 150 million people worldwide are chronically infected, and more than 350,000 people die from HCV-related liver diseases every year.
·       Egypt has by far the highest HCV prevalence in the world at 14.7%, ten-fold higher than the global prevalence levels.
·       HCV is transmitted through contact with the blood of an infected person. Usually this is through the sharing of infected needles and/or receiving infected blood.
·       It is possible to transfer the hepatitis C virus to your baby. Research shows that the risk of transmission to a baby during childbirth is about 5%.
·       Hepatitis C infection can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, life-long condition that can lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
·       The infection usually begins in a gradual manner with vague symptoms like tiredness, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting, fever etc. During the early phase of infection with HCV there may be no symptoms. Symptoms may not appear until the liver is significantly damaged.
·       The initial six months is the period of acute infection. Around 25% of infected persons can successfully fight off the infection and become free of the virus. In the rest, the virus remains in the body for many years giving rise to chronic Hepatitis C infection.
·       Slowly the infection may progress to jaundice in about 25% of patients. If there are other risk factors such as alcohol use, around 10 to 40% of these people will go on to develop scarring of the liver often many years after the initial infection.
·       There is no vaccine against HCV. Treatment of people with new HCV infections with interferon and antivirals can get rid of the virus in up to 60% of people within 24 to 72 weeks. This treatment is expensive and may have severe side effects.
·       The best way to prevent HCV is by following proper infection control practices in medical settings, and avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease such as injection drug use and the sharing of infected needles.
 Published here:

 About Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar
Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar is a partnership between Cornell University and Qatar Foundation. It offers pre-medical and medical courses leading to the Cornell University MD degree with teaching by Cornell and Weill Cornell faculty and by physicians at Hamad Medical Corporation and Aspetar Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Hospital who hold Weill Cornell appointments.
Through its biomedical research program, WCMC-Q is building a sustainable research community in Qatar while advancing basic science and clinical research. Through its medical college, WCMC-Q seeks to provide the finest education possible for medical students, to improve health care both now and for future generations, and to provide highest quality of health care to the Qatari population.

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