Monday, April 19, 2010

April 19, 2010
This graph shows the prevalence or the percent of people with hepatitis C in Egypt and in other parts of the world. The red column, Egypt, shows just how much higher HCV is in Egypt than anyplace place else in the world. There have been a number of explanations for this unusual epidemic, but what is important now is to prevent on going transmission of this virus in Egypt. That is, people in Egypt who do not have HCV are getting infected. This has lead to a lot of consternation about how people are being infected by HCV in Egypt. We know that HCV is a blood borne virus just like HIV that causes AIDS. We also know that unlike HIV, HCV is not spread by sex, at least not to any significant extent. The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control both agree that sex rarely if ever plays a role in the spread of HCV.

Blood Borne Virus

HCV is just one of many blood borne viruses. Preventing the spread of these viruses begins with health and dental care providers. For example, blood for transfusion has to be screened for HCV. In Egypt, all blood donors are screened for HCV and other important infections. HCV contaminated blood supply was a global problem before 1992. Before 1992, there was no laboratory method to test for HCV. Since 1992, blood transfusions in Egypt no longer play a role in infecting people and spreading the virus in the country.

Let’s try to understand how then an individual might become infected. First for infection to occur they would have to be exposed to blood. Specifically, they would have to be exposed to blood that had come from a person who was infected with HCV. Moreover, this blood would have to be on an object that could pierce or cut the skin or other membranes of the human body.

The most obvious place this can happen is within the health or dental care system. This is the place where an average ordinary Egyptian is most likely to be exposed to blood.

More about HCV transmission, exposure to blood, and how to prevent or protect yourself (if you are an Egyptian) from HCV infection in the next blog on HCV in Egypt.

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