Getting the Facts from Dr. Hossam Ghoneim
Hepatitis C is often in the news, especially with the success of recent initiatives and treatments to eradicate this debilitating virus. There is still a surprising amount of confusion as to who is susceptible to contracting the virus and how it is transmitted. Cairo West Magazine sought out leading gastroenterologist and hepatologist Dr. Hossam Ghoneim to see the big picture.
CWM: Dr. Hossam, it seems that Hepatitis C is generally considered to be a virus prevalent in the lower income communities, and is linked to poor sanitation. Is this the case?
HG: The clear good answer is no. Hepatitis C does not particularly spare the upper class of the society. This is because its transmission is not directly linked to personal hygiene, as we will see when we come to talk about how can one get infected. However, having said that, it must be noted that because the greater majority of the Egyptian population is from the lower and middle classes we are under the false impression that this is a disease of that class.
What percentage of Egypt’s population is, or has been, affected?
Before the Egyptian government started to combat the virus through the National Committee of Hepatitis Viral Infection in 2008 it was estimated that one in six Egyptians had the virus. As we speak today, this number has steeply decreased thanks to the success story of this committee, which is now internationally renowned. We noticed this sharp decline especially with new oral medications that appeared nearly two years ago and are now looking for patients to treat by implementing screening programs.
Which are the most common methods of transmission, and how can we protect ourselves?
Transmission is by blood; either direct blood transfusion or via open wounds like when sharing razor blades, nail scissors or toothbrushes. There is no scientific evidence to support transmission via other body fluids like sweat, semen or saliva. It is important to ensure that any instrument being used for a manicure or pedicure, or dental procedure has been thoroughly sterilised before use.
Are there any health symptoms that we should look out for, and what tests are needed to identify the virus?
Symptoms only appear when one develops liver disease, not at the time of catching the virus. It is very common to be infected and for the virus to remain dormant for months, or even years before it starts causing the typical liver disease. That’s why screening for early detection is important, so we can identify the infection before the disease develops. When the appropriate treatment is given we see a success rate of 99%. All you need to do is a simple blood test. The treatment is a breakthrough in the history of science. An oral tablet, once a day for three to six months (depending on the stage of the infection) and that’s it.
Ways To Avoid Hepatitis C
- Do not share personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors, nail clippers or toothbrushes.
- Transmission of Hepatitis C is possible when poor infection-control practices are used during tattooing or piercing. Use only licensed practitioners.
- Use beauty and nail spas that have stringent equipment sterilization procedures. If in doubt, take your own kit.
- Avoid sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject medications. Used syringes should be disposed of responsibly.
Important to Note:
- Hepatitis C virus is not spread by sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. It is also not spread through food or water.
- Any blood spills — including dried blood, which can still be infectious — should be cleaned using a dilution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water. Gloves should be worn when cleaning up blood spills.
- The Hepatitis C virus can survive outside the body at room temperature, on environmental surfaces, for up to 3 weeks.
Bio: ( Picture has been provided)
Prof. Dr. Hossam Ghoneim
MBBCh, MSc, MD
Consultant Hepatology & Gastroenterology
Member of the American & European Societies of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy