Muscat: Oman's health authorities are urging people to take action over Hepatitis, especially high-risk groups, saying regular medical check-ups would help ensure the condition is diagnosed early.
"Unfortunately, Hepatitis C is asymptomatic in most of the cases. Patients do not show any symptoms and they discover that they are infected only when they go for a medical check-up, usually when required by a company where they want to work," says Dr Juma Al Lawati, a senior consultant at Royal Hospital.
Speaking to Times of Oman, Al Lawati said it is important that the high-risk groups have a regular check-up as it helps early diagnosis of the disease.
"Some people are diagnosed with Hepatitis only when the liver is already gone," he added.
Commenting on the prevalence of Hepatitis in Oman, he noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified the Sultanate of Oman as a low-prevalence country.
"It can be said that not more than 2 per cent of the population are Hepatitis C positive and 7 per cent are Hepatitis B," Al Lawati said, noting that the number of Hepatitis B cases is increasing while the number of Hepatitis C cases is decreasing.
According to him, two thirds of the infected are male and the rest are female.
Main transmission routes
Asked about the main modes of Hepatitis transmission, Al Lawati said that the main routes of Hepatitis C transmission are blood transfusion, injection drug use, sexual contact, and mother-to-child.
Hepatitis prevalent in 20 to 40 age group
And the main modes of Hepatitis B transmission are sexual contact, transmission from body fluids and mother-to-child, he added.
"The routes of transmission of one third of the cases are unknown."
The specialist also noted that Hepatitis is more prevalent among people aged 20 to 40 in Oman.
According to Al Lawati, pregnant women are being screened and all newborn infants
Commenting on the treatment of Hepatitis patients in Oman, Al Lawati said that a vast range of medications are available and treatment is free of cost for nationals. "But unfortunately, we do not have enough public gastroenterology and hepatology centres," he noted, adding that currently such centres are available at a few hospitals across the country, including Royal Hospital, Armed Forces
Hospital and Sultan Qaboos University Hospital.
More health centres should be established in the Sultanate both for anonymous testing and treatment, he added.
Lack of specialist
Al Lawati also said that there is a lack of professional gastroenterologists in the country.
"There are not more than 20 professional gastroenterologists in the country, and we need at least 20 more," said Al Lawati.
The specialist also called for more awareness campaigns and educational programmes to educate the people and encourage them to take the test and avoid serious complications associated with Hepatitis.
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