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Hepatitis C

What is Hepatitis C?
The History of Hepatitis
The Causes of Hepatitis C
The Symptoms of Hepatitis C
The Types of Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C in Egypt


What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a dangerous transmittable disease which has a considerable impact on the liver of humans. Hepatitis C Virus, or HCV, is the main cause behind this serious disease.

Hepatitis C usually results in the appearance of scars in the liver. In some cases, patients would suffer from Cirrhosis after a few years. This is in addition to the occurrence of the liver failure or cancer. Some patients would also suffer from enlarged and swollen veins in the esophagus and stomach. The most dangerous complication of Hepatitis C is severe bleeding that leads to the death of the patient.
Hepatitis C is mainly transmitted through blood transfusions due to the intravenous injection of drugs, nonsterile equipment, and blood transfusion.
The number of Hepatitis C is estimated to be around 150 million patients around the world. This is why it is considered quite a dangerous and prevailed disease that affects the lives and health of a huge number of people in various regions around the world.

The History of Hepatitis
The first efforts recorded in history to cure or control Hepatitis C was in the 5th century. This was when Hippocrates of Kos, famous Greek physician and one of the most glittering names in the field of medicine in the ancient world, discovered an epidemic jaundice that he used to control the prevalence of the disease.
At the middle of the 19th century, more than 40,000 soldiers were affected by various forms of liver viruses during the American Civil War. More than 180,000 soldiers during World War II were recorded to have Hepatitis C with two types; serum and acute. A large number of cases were diagnosed to have serum hepatitis. A number of soldiers who received blood transfusions were diagnosed to have acute hepatitis.
In the 1960s, Baruch Blumberg, famous American physician, who won the Noble prize Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1976, discovered Hepatitis B when he was checking the blood of a patient.
Blumberg’s discovery was quite significant as a new blood screening was developed to diagnose Hepatitis B Virus, HBV. Blumberg also discovered an effective medicine for the cure of HBV in 1976 and won the Noble prize for his achievement.
It was in the 1970s when Hepatitis A was discovered. The efforts would be credited to Steven Feinstone, a virologist who was able to identify Hepatitis A Virus, or HAV. He was able to discover the virus in some prisoners’ blood screening and the first effective medications were discovered in the beginning of the1980s.
In 1989, Hepatitis C was identified by the Center of Disease Control was able to identify the Hepatitis C Virus, or HCV. However, an effective medication for Hepatitis C was never discovered.
The American Food and Drugs Administration, FDA, approved the first effective drug for Hepatitis C in 1998. It was a mixture of Interferon and Ribavirin that proved to be effective in the treatment of HCV. It was also used for the prevention of the reoccurrence of HCV.
In 2013, the FDA approved two new medications for the cure of Hepatitis C. The first was Sofosbuvir, which was sold at extremely high prices that made it unaffordable for a large sector of patients. The other was Simeprevir, which was less in price than Sofosbuvir and had relatively the same effects.

The Causes of Hepatitis C
The only cause of Hepatitis C is the infection with the C virus and it occurs when the blood of an uninfected individual gets exposed to the blood of an HCV infected person. This can happen through blood transfusion, drug abuse, the usage of the same tools with an infected person, and the usage of dirty tools and gadgets. Hepatitis C can also be transmitted through sexual intercourse.

The Symptoms of Hepatitis C
When patients suffer from the infection of Hepatitis C for a long period of time, it is then diagnosed as chronic hepatitis C. unfortunately, the symptoms of HCV are not apparent for several years. When the virus begins damaging the liver, symptoms start to appear.
The symptoms of Hepatitis C include unreasonable weight loss, bleeding and bruising easily, itches in the skin, the yellow color of the skin, and general fatigue. These symptoms would be confused with many other types of diseases. This is why discovering the infection of Hepatitis C requires specific medical check-ups.
However, when Hepatitis C develops, the symptoms develop as well. The symptoms of developed HCV include nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, stomach ache, pain in the muscles, and a major yellowing of the eyes or the skin.

The Types of Hepatitis C
There are mainly two kinds of Hepatitis C. The first is the acute Hepatitis C with its symptoms lasting for around 6 months. When acute Hepatitis C develops, it turns into the second type, chronic hepatitis C. Some patients would suffer from Chronic Hepatitis C for their entire lives as their bodies are not able to defeat the virus.

Hepatitis C in Egypt
According to international statistics, Egypt has the highest level of Hepatitis C infections in the world. The rate is around 13% of the Egyptians which is equivalent to more than 12 million people, with 8 million patients suffering from chronic Hepatitis C.
The rates of infection in rural areas in Egypt is even higher at a percentage of 24%. With such high prevalence rates, it was quite difficult for the Egyptian government and health system to combat such a dangerous virus that represented a burden on the Egyptian economy and the community as a whole.
Egypt has a long history of combating Virus C. The people of Egypt have been suffering from schistosomiasis for thousands of years. In the 1950s, the Egyptian government started offering an effective medication for the cure of schistosomiasis by injections. The repeated usage of needles led to the huge spread of HCV in Egypt. In 2008, 10% of the Egyptians suffered from Hepatitis C.
The Egyptian government had to sell the drugs curing Hepatitis C at a low price in order to help this huge number of patients. After a long negotiation process, Gilead, the company producing the drug, agreed to lower the prices dramatically.
In the period from 2014 until 2017, more than 1.5 million patients got their HCV treatment. However, all those who received treatment were already diagnosed to have Hepatitis C.
Therefore, the Egyptian government carried out a screening program covering the whole nation in 2017. Although there were 4 million HCV patients in Egypt in 2017, the percentage of patients who receive treatment decreased by 30%.
The speed of Egypt combating Virus C depends mainly on how fast the infected patients are diagnosed. The future plan of Egypt is to totally eliminate Hepatitis C by the year 2023. The experience of Egypt combating Hepatitis C is a model that many other countries around the world should consider.
Over the coming 10 years, eliminating Virus C from Egypt would surely have great benefits. At least, the lives of tens of thousands of people would be saved. This is in addition to saving huge amounts of money that can be used in other means of sustainable development Egypt is adopting nowadays.
All this enhancement in combating Virus C Egypt has witnessed during the past 10 years was due to the huge decrease in the prices of the drugs. This is besides the efforts of the Egyptian health system to screen a large portion of the Egyptian population to diagnose people infected with Virus C. This achievement can be counted as Egypt’s most remarkable accomplishment during the past 10 years.

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