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.

According to HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit Senior Consultant, Dr Hussam Al Soub, HMC has been implementing treatments for viral hepatitis with very good results noting that there have been no major incidences of the disease in the country. He said:

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, including Qatar.’

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. Dr Al Soub said:

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.’

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). Adding that people with hepatitis B can also get infected with hepatitis D, resulting in more severe complications, Dr Al Soub said:

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.’

Highlighting the importance of regular medical check-ups for the early detection of hepatitis. Dr Al Soub said:

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. 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. He said:

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.’

HMC has been the principal public healthcare provider in the state of Qatar for over three decades. HMC manages eight hospitals, incorporating five specialist hospitals and three community hospitals.  HMC also manages the National Ambulance Service as well as home and residential care, all accredited by Joint Commission International. HMC is leading the development of the region’s first academic health system and is committed to building a legacy of healthcare expertise in Qatar. HMC collaborate with partners who are key experts in Qatar and beyond, including Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Partners Healthcare, Boston.