MOH News
Remarkable Decline in the Prevalence of Hepatitis in the Kingdom
03 August 2016
The Ministry of Health (MOH) revealed that the Kingdom has witnessed a remarkable decline in the prevalence of hepatitis A, B and C, comparing to previous years since 2008. Such decline is attributed to the improvement of environmental reformation in the community, the efforts exerted to promote health awareness among citizens and residents, the follow-up of health-related variables at the international and regional levels, and the issuance of health regulations meant to control the importation of infected cases into the kingdom. The decline also is attributed to the improvement of epidemiological surveillance for viral hepatitis cases and the inclusion of vaccination against hepatitis A and B into the National Immunization Program, as well as keeping on achieving the immunizations coverage rates of more than 97% annually.         
 
The MOH pointed out that the healing rate depends on many factors, including the virus strain, the treatment type and the rapidly-changing standard of hepatitis C treatment. “The treatment of this disease was, until recently, based on interferon and ribavirin, and requiring a weekly injection for 48 weeks, the matter which was resulting in the recovery of about half of the treated patients, given that such treatments are available in all the MOH's hospitals,” said the Ministry.
 
Furthermore, the MOH highlighted that it has provided the new drugs for hepatitis C treatment and a special protocol has been developed by the National Committee for the Control of Viral Hepatitis (NCCVH) for dispensing these drugs. These medications, called the direct-acting antivirals, are far more effective, safer, and much better accepted than the previous ones. The treatment with direct-acting antivirals may lead to the recovery of most patients suffering from hepatitis C and in a shorter period of treatment (about 12 weeks). 
 
On the other hand, the World Hepatitis Day, observed in July 2016, is an opportunity to step up national and international efforts on hepatitis and to urge partners and member states to support the roll-out of the first global health strategy on viral hepatitis for 2016–2021, which was approved during the Sixty-ninth World Health Assembly (WHA) in May 2016. 
 
The world day aims at promoting the awareness of hepatitis B and C, in addition to encouraging and supporting their prevention, diagnosis and treatment procedures. Events will be organized throughout the world; to focus on the prevention against these two diseases. The new strategy identifies the international objectives about the viral hepatitis, for the first time. Such objectives include lowering the incidence of hepatitis B and C to a rate of 30% and the mortality rate to 10% by the year 2020.
 
Key approaches will depend on scaling up vaccination programs against hepatitis B, focusing on preventing perinatal HBV transmission and improving the injection, blood and surgical safety, as well as providing “Harm Reduction” services for people who inject drugs, in addition to increasing access to diagnosis and treatment for hepatitis B and C. 
 
The World Hepatitis Day 2016 conveys many messages, as the viral hepatitis affects 400 million persons globally. Such high rates of this epidemic may make anyone vulnerable to the disease.
And an estimated 95% of people with hepatitis are unaware of their infection, since hepatitis tests are complicated and could be costly, in addition to the poor laboratory capacity in many countries. However, the WHO's upcoming guidelines will provide guidance to the countries about testing strategies, meant to help them scale up hepatitis testing. 
 
Globally, most people, who need hepatitis treatment, don't get treated; due to lack of awareness and poor access to its treatment services. Over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured of the virus within 3 to 6 months. The proper treatment of hepatitis B and C can prevent the development of the major life-threatening complications of chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. The WHO pointed out that scaling up the treatment can save the lives of 7 million persons over the period from 2015 to 2030, let alone the economic benefits to local communities.  
 
 
 



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