Education, increased public awareness and surveillance are all considered as factors contributing to the continued reduction in the number of viral hepatitis cases in Qatar each year.
Between 2010 and 2016, over 4,400 cases of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) were diagnosed in Qatar, with 228 cases identified in 2015 and 163 in 2016 demonstrating a continued year-on-year decrease.
Reducing the spread of viral hepatitis remains a priority for Qatar, with significant investment made towards diagnoses and treatment for those infected. All pregnant women, blood donors, and those working in high-risk professions, such as healthcare, food service, and personal care industries, including barber shops and beauty salons, are tested for the virus annually. In addition, every newcomer to the country is screened for a number of infectious diseases, including hepatitis, to identify those infected, provide them with care, and prevent the spread of the disease. All babies born in Qatar are also vaccinated at birth against hepatitis.
According to Dr Muna Al Maslamani, Medical Director of Communicable Disease Centre (CDC) at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), Qatar has remained proactive in its efforts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among the population.
We have set up a national disease surveillance system for the early detection of infectious diseases. We have also fortified our healthcare structure by implementing high-quality infection control measures and ensuring that healthcare workers and others employed in what are considered to be high-risk professions are annually screened for viral hepatitis.’
Dr Al Maslamani, who is also the Senior Consultant for HMC Infectious Diseases Division, said that the CDC is dedicated to the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of infectious diseases such as hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), leprosy, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), influenza, measles, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). She said that the continued decrease in the number of viral hepatitis cases in Qatar each year is a direct result of the country’s strong surveillance system and of the national implementation of immunisation plan for newborns.
The screening of all newcomers to Qatar at the Medical Commission and the vaccination of babies at birth are the main reasons for the marked decline in the prevalence of hepatitis in Qatar.’
She added that all individuals in Qatar diagnosed with viral hepatitis are provided with adequate medical care, without discrimination. Treatment for viral hepatitis is normally supportive, that is, care given is to prevent, control, or relieve complications and side effects and improve the patient’s comfort and quality of life.
Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by a viral infection. It is caused by five main viruses, referred to as type 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 normally include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, 9 out of 10 of the suspected 325 million people worldwide living with viral hepatitis, are unaware they have the virus. World Hepatitis Day is observed every year on 28 July to raise awareness of the need for more screening, diagnoses, and care.
For updates and more information on the HMC services for viral hepatitis, visit hamad.qa.