Watch for hepatitis cases after holidays

The incidence of Hepatitis A in the emirate rises after summer holidays, according to the Communicable Diseases report by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (Haad).


Olivia Olarte-Ulherr

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Published: Sun 28 Jul 2013, 1:36 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:44 PM

“There is always a peak in August, September and October and this is attributed mainly to the exposure during summer holidays spent in endemic countries,” the report stated, indicating they had recorded a rise in the disease after summer over the past three years.

During the last quarter of 2012, the number of reported Hepatitis A cases increased by 40 per cent from 73 the previous quarter to 102. More than two-thirds of these cases were found to have had travel history.

Hepatitis A is a viral liver disease that can cause mild to severe illness and is primarily transmitted through faeces-contaminated food or water, or through direct contact with an infected person. Globally, there is an estimated 1.4 million cases of Hepatitis A every year, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

With today being World Hepatitis Day, WHO is urging governments to act against the five hepatitis viruses that can cause severe liver infections. Some of these hepatitis viruses, most notably types B and C, can also lead to chronic and debilitating illnesses such as liver cancer and cirrhosis, in addition to loss of income and high medical expenses for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

This year’s theme - ‘This is hepatitis. Know it. Confront it’ — emphasises the fact that hepatitis remains largely unknown as a health threat in much of the world. Viral hepatitis is referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ because most people do not realise they are infected and, over decades, the illness slowly progresses to liver disease.

“The fact that many Hepatitis B and C infections are silent, causing no symptoms until there is severe damage to the liver, points to the urgent need for universal access to immunisation, screening, diagnosis and antiviral therapy,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security and the Environment.

The number of hepatitis (suspected and confirmed) cases that were reported in Abu Dhabi in one year almost doubled, from 36.5 per 100,000 population in 2011 to 60.4 per 100,000 population in 2012 (an increase of about 65 per cent), according to HAAD statistics.

Hepatitis A incidence rose to 11.6 per 100,000 population in 2012 from 5.9 in 2011. Reported cases of Hepatitis B went up to 27.4 per 100,000 population in 2012 from 17.9 in 2011 while Hepatitis C cases shot up to 21.3 per 100,000 population in 2012 from 12.7 the year before.

“This needs further investigation to understand whether this is due to better detection and reporting, or it indicates a real increase in acute or newly detected cases,” the HAAD report said.

Hepatitis C (fourth) and B (sixth) were among the top ten notified illnesses in Abu Dhabi last year.

In the first quarter of 2013, the number of Hepatitis A cases in the emirate was 84; 50 per cent higher compared to combined cases for the same period in the last two years. Hepatitis cases were 191, while Hepatitis C were 148.

In the UAE, Hepatitis B test is required for visa screening for certain professions such as domestic workers (housemaids, private drivers), nannies, beauticians and barbers, and food handlers.

Treatment for hepatitis is available in hospitals here but as a general precaution physicians advise the practice of personal hygiene, in particular, avoiding sharing of sharp items such as razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes and earrings. Unvaccinated adults and children should also get inoculated against Hepatitis B.

Hepatitis Casesin Abu Dhabi

> Types A and E are foodborne and waterborne infections that cause millions of cases of acute illness every year.

> Types B, C and D are spread by infected body fluids including blood, by sexual contact, mother-to-child transmission during birth or by contaminated medical equipment.

> Hepatitis cases in Q1- 2013

> Hepatitis A

> 2012: 279 cases

> 2011: 138 cases

> 2010: 193 cases

> Hepatitis B

> 2012: 665 cases

> 2011: 655 cases

> 2010: 711 cases

> Hepatitis C

> 2012: 527 cases

> 2011: 559 cases

> 2010: 668 cases

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