Have you heard of World Hepatitis Day? If not, then did you know that it’s today? An approximate 520 million people are chronically infected by hepatitis B and C worldwide, and many of them wouldn’t even know that they’re infected by the ‘silent virus’.
This unaffectionate nickname was given to the disease because a person can be infected without knowing it until it’s too late. Think of it, if not caught early, the situation may deteriorate so badly that a person’s only option would be a liver transplant.
However, according to Dr. Mazin Kamil, Consultant Gastroenterologist (joining soon at Royal Bahrain Hospital), there are two things that can be done. “The first step is to get tested. At the very least, a routine liver function test can reveal if you have possibly been infected. People at risk of being infected are healthcare workers and people who receive blood clotting factors and blood transfusion. Once detected, the second step would be immediate treatment.”
The reason not many people get tested is because of the symptoms that present themselves like the flu in the acute stage. “This includes loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, weakness, exhaustion and pain in the abdomen. However, the patient may be asymptomatic if he has a chronic infection, so it’s important to get tested.” Says Dr. Kamil.
The good news is that according to the World Hepatitis Alliance, in nine out of ten adults (not children), acute hepatitis B infection will go away on its own in the first six months. “Although a person should not rely on these statistics, and it is highly recommended you get tested lest the disease either becomes chronic or you infect someone.”
“There is a treatment for the disease, but it’s a lengthy process. It mostly involves medications to eradicate the virus in addition to several measures taken to prevent further liver damage. It’s rare that patients recover completely, especially if they’re diagnosed too late.”
In order to dispose of some myths surrounding how you catch the disease, the main thing people should be aware of is that it cannot be contracted through everyday contact, such as shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, or by using the same toilet. “The immunization vaccine is the best way of preventing hepatitis B infection, while getting tested and catching hepatitis C early is an important option, since it is curable.”
To book your hepatitis screening, call Royal Bahrain Hospital on 1724 6800. For more information on World Hepatitis Day, visit www.worldhepatitisalliance.org