Qatar has been listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the top ten countries in the world that is on track for the elimination of the Hepatitis C virus, says Dr Muna Al Maslamani, Medical Director of Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Communicable Disease Centre (CDC).
Dr Al Maslamani said there is already an existing standardised hepatitis care programme at HMC’s Gastroenterology Division and she said it will be a noteworthy achievement to be among the first countries in the world to eliminate Hepatitis C. She said:
We have launched the National Qatar Strategy for Hepatitis Control 2018-2022, following on from the launch of a plan in December 2014, which was a collaboration between HMC and the Ministry of Public Health. This plan was brought under the supervision of the WHO in January 2018 and according to the global health body’s recent publication, Qatar is one of the top ten leading countries that is on track to eradicate the Hepatitis C virus.’
According to the WHO, the leading countries in the eradication of the Hepatitis C virus are Australia, Brazil, Germany, Iceland, Japan, The Netherlands, Qatar, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Mongolia, and Iran.
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 but other infections, toxic substances, and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
Dr Al Maslamani says that according to the Ministry of Public Health’s Strategy data, over 23,000 people in the country are living with viral Hepatitis B, of which 1,445 are currently receiving treatment, in accordance with international guidelines and best practice. She says the others are receiving regular follow-up care. Dr Al Maslamani added that over 4,200 people in the country have been diagnosed with viral Hepatitis C, with over 1,700 currently receiving treatment.
In response to the recent Hepatitis A virus outbreak in the United States, Dr Al Maslamani maintains that there have been no recent outbreaks in Qatar, which she attributes in part to the strict implementation of the recommended routine Hepatitis A vaccination for all children in the country.
Dr Moutaz Derbala, Senior Consultant, Gastroenterologist Division, HMC, and Hepatitis Care Programme Lead reiterated that Qatar has established a sector-wide response to viral hepatitis epidemics. Dr Derbala claimed:
The State of Qatar has been on the right pathway for controlling hepatitis, and this strategic framework is a continuation of an already developed action plan to address the spread of the disease. This strategic framework aligns the national hepatitis response in Qatar with the global and regional strategies aimed at achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’