“Just about every family in Egypt is touched by hepatitis C,”
says Dr Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative in the country. The bloodborne
virus, which is highly infectious, kills an estimated 40 000 Egyptians a
year and at least 1 in 10 of the population aged 15 to 59 is infected.
Egypt’s hepatitis C epidemic dates back decades when glass
syringes used during a mass vaccination campaign were not properly
sterilized between use, explains Dr Manal Hamdy El-Sayed from Egypt’s
National Viral Hepatitis Committee. “This reservoir of infection was
sustained for years because there was no awareness and no efforts to
control the spread,” she says.
Part of the problem is that hepatitis symptoms can take a long
time to show. “Most people do not know they are infected, as they often
do not have symptoms until they develop serious liver disease, which
can be years later,” says Stefan Wiktor from WHO’s Global Hepatitis