We need to ensure that there is an integrated approach regarding Hepatitis C. The new initiatives of the Government build upon services already in place to reduce the spread of Hepatitis C, including methadone treatment and the Needle and Syringe Exchange Programme. The next step is to improve the diagnostic and treatment modalities.
This statement was made yesterday by the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Dr Anwar Husnoo, during the opening of a three-day international conference on Hepatitis C held at Sofitel Mauritius L’Imperial Resort & Spa, Flic en Flac. Renowned experts in the field of Hepatitis C and international speakers were also present.
Dr Husnoo dwelt on the importance of increasing public awareness, to seek out and identify Hepatitis C patients, and help them manage their conditions with the appropriate support and care. There is also the need, he pointed out, to invest in effective prevention strategies. These include comprehensive programmes for people who inject drugs, and further improve access to safe hospital practice and blood transfusions. According to him, both the Government and the population at large, including the NGOs, should work together to control the spread of the disease. Therefore, cooperation, collaboration, discussion, dissemination of important information and identification through networking of the best ways ahead remain indispensable, he underpinned.
Referring to statistics of the World Health Organisation, the Health Minister highlighted that the prevalence of Hepatitis on a global scale is significant, adding that the number of cases is increasing, and the consequences are severe and cause a lot of suffering and deaths. An estimated two million people die every year from viral hepatitis in general and approximately 80 to 110 million people globally have chronic Hepatitis C infection and a significant number of those who are chronically infected will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer, and nearly 400 000 people die each year from Hepatitis C-related liver diseases, he added.
Speaking about the treatment of Hepatitis C, Dr Husnoo recalled that currently no vaccine exists while pointing out that plans are being developed in a number of low- and middle-income countries to rapidly expand access to both Hepatitis B and C treatment, as well as ensuring that there is adequate investment in proven hepatitis prevention interventions, including Hepatitis vaccination programmes, harm reduction for drug users, and blood and injection safety.
He stated that the population at high risk of contracting Hepatitis B and C include IV drug users, HIV infected patients, patients on haemodialysis, patients who have had blood transfusions prior to 1996, healthcare workers after needle stick injuries, and children born to infected mothers at birth.
‘Hepatitis C is more prevalent and causes more concern than Hepatitis B. Up to now in Mauritius, no studies have been carried out on the prevalence rate of Hepatitis C, but a sub-population study has revealed a sero prevalence rate of 0.3% in blood donors and 96% in people who inject drugs (PWID) and in 2011, PWID were estimated at 10,000’, he added.
This conference is being organised for the first time by the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life. It involves the participation of experts from the United Kingdom, Australia, Egypt and South Africa to guide health care professionals on treatment and elimination of Hepatitis C in Mauritius.
The main objectives are: to educate local doctors in the new treatments of the disease; to develop a large scale treatment strategy for those who have been diagnosed; to develop a strategy for eliminating Hepatitis C in Mauritius by 2025 and encouraging people at risk to be tested and treated; and to develop ties with world experts who will provide updated knowledge on the disease.
Source: Government of Mauritius