August 29, 2016

MoPH working towards eradicating viral hepatitis − Norton

World Hepatitis Day 2016

On Thursday, Guyana joined with the rest of the Americas in observing “World Hepatitis Day”, and Public Health Minister Dr George Norton expressed gratitude towards the country’s “healthcare workers and all our UN partners and internal supporters for the tremendous efforts over the years as we work towards eradicating viral hepatitis.”

World Hepatitis Day 2016 was observed under the theme “Prevent Hepatitis. Act Now.”

In a press release on Thursday, it was relayed that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has had “remarkable progress” towards protecting Guyana from vaccine-preventable diseases. Moreover, Norton said the Ministry has moved from a childhood programme of vaccination over the last decade to include adolescents, and now the entire family: “Our motto – Not any child or family left unvaccinated.”

“I encourage you to ‘Know Hepatitis- Are you at risk, get tested, and if you are positive seek treatment,” said Dr Norton.

According to the Health Minister, July 28 was designated towards the commemoration of World Hepatitis Day in honour of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Blumberg, whose birthday fell on the same day.

Samuel was credited for the discovery of the Hepatitis B virus, as well as being the person who developed the first vaccine.

It has been highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that 400 million people around the world are living with Hepatitis B and C.

Viral Hepatitis, the head Dr remarked, is a group of infectious diseases caused by different strains of hepatitis virus and includes but not limited to types A, B, C, D and E. This group of viral hepatitis affects hundreds of millions of people across the globe, causing acute and chronic liver disease with mortality close to 1.5 million people every year, mostly from hepatitis B and C.

According to Norton, viral hepatitis is referred to as a “silent epidemic” since most people do not realise they are infected (asymptomatic) and, over decades, it slowly progresses to liver disease.

The Public Health Minister noted that over the last decade, Guyana has had success with its Immunisation Programme.

It was in the 1970s, he said, that the programme started to vaccinate against six diseases namely measles, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, and tuberculosis.

“But it was only in 2012, that additional antigens against diseases including yellow fever, hepatitis B, mumps, heamophilus influenza, rubella, rotavirus and pneumococcal, meningococcal and human papilloma virus were introduced.

Since then there has been significant progress towards protecting Guyana from vaccine-preventable diseases” Norton disclosed.