CAIRO: The National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis (NCCVH) held a press conference Tuesday in Nasr City announcing the launch of a hepatitis awareness campaign.
The first national viral hepatitis day festival is set to take place throughout select cities in Egypt on May 29, with Cairo’s venue expecting the largest turn out.
Prepared with an agenda to battle Egypt’s leading viral disease, newly established NCCVH aims to plant ten treatment centers in cities where hepatitis shows a high prevalence. Now, four treatment centers have opened their doors to patients in Cairo, Assiut, Ismalia and Tanta.
“Our initiative to solve this national dilemma comes in phases. But first and foremost, we need to raise awareness to the public about the issue of viral hepatitis in Egypt. The event itself will give us an opportunity to let people know there is help, especially because this has been a problem for years, said Dr. Zoheir Halag, Egypt’s representative for the World Health Organization (WHO).
Also showing concern was Dr. Gamal Esmat, professor of tropical medicine and hepatology at Cairo University and president of the International Association for the Study of Liver (IASL) in Egypt.
“There is help to offer. People just don’t know about it. And if it’s a problem that people don’t know about, then we can fix that. We just need cooperation, we need people to attend this Tuesday, Esmat said.
Dr. Mostafa Kamal, expert epidemiologist and NCCVH member told the Daily Star Egypt, “The press has a role in fighting hepatitis in Egypt, their attention will give more chance for awareness to really spread.
While Egypt’s population of roughly 76 million contains the highest prevalence of hepatitis C in the world, reports from the hepatology labrotory also claim that “the national prevalence rate of HCV antibody positivity, estimated by the Egyptian Ministry of Health (MOHP) in 1999, was 18.9%. Experts say that Hepatitis A and B are not as severely prevalent as hepatitis C.
To prevent the growing rate of hepatitis carriers in Egypt, the National Committee hopes to use the awareness festival to promote more research on the nature of disease outbreaks, occupations, and environments.
“Our campaign plans to focus on many things, not just on the treatment for hepatitis but on prevention as well. B and C are the most important viruses which have similar transmission routes, it’s important that sort of information is understood by the Egyptian people, Halag added.
“That’s why we’re throwing an awareness campaign, a cultural event that will attract the public to learn about hepatitis, about how many people are infected, and if you are infected, how you can find a solution to that problem, said Esmat,
Dr. Manal El Khayil, professor of pediatrics at Ain Shams and NCCVH member announced the committee’s strategy.
“The campaign will start with phase one, letting people know about unhygienic practices in Egypt and demonstrations of how to protect yourself. In the second phase, we will urge people to get tested, and third, building various liver and health centers for treatment throughout Egypt.
In exclusive reports on the Middle East, WHO lists Egypt as a country most in need of additional training, funding and research for combating the hepatitis epidemic. To direct their path in eradicating hepatitis prevalence in Egypt, the NCCVH will rely on the awareness campaign turn out before other initiatives are taken.
While vaccination has proven to be available in Vacsera, Egypt’s leading center for vaccines and immunization, most hepatitis carriers are unaware a vaccination even exists. Kamal noted that “vaccines come in three doses. Each dose costs LE 9, while private clinics charge LE 150.
Efforts of collaboration with local experts and the enhancement of training and funding will hopefully make a difference in Egypt s struggle to address the burden of viral hepatitis, and so national participation is encouraged.
Under the auspices of First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, plans for a series of national viral hepatitis festivals to take place throughout Egypt are underway. Free tickets are being distributed at the El Sawy Cultural Center in Zamalak as well as Cairo’s leading bookstore, Diwan.
The event will start at 6pm with Egypt’s Minister of Health, Hatem El Gabali giving his opening speech at the Cairo Stadium. Renowned Egyptian singer Mohammed Mounir is scheduled for a concert. Several other Egyptian celebrities will make an appearance.
Viral hepatitis is a serious but preventable problem that so far has not received the attention it deserves. For more information, call Egypt’s hepatitis awareness hotline: 08007008000.