Three quarters of UAE residents unaware hepatitis can be asymptomatic

On World Hepatitis Day, researchers surveyed the nation to find out how much people know about the disease

Hispanic doctor examining patient with stethoscope. Getty Images

Eighty-four per cent of UAE residents do not realise hepatitis can be asymptomatic, and only about one-fifth know how the disease is transmitted.

Forty-seven per cent did not even know hepatitis B existed.

The research was carried out by YouGov and Gilead Sciences Middle East as part of an initiative gathering data on chronic disease management and patient voice integration.

The lack of awareness around HBV means securing appropriate and prompt treatment remains a challenge
Dr. Mohamed Farghaly, Dubai Medical College

The survey results were released before World Hepatitis Day on July 28, to shine a light on the need for more awareness about the chronic diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) carries out frequent awareness campaigns to highlight the importance of the early detection of hepatitis C.

It is estimated that 15.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region are chronically infected with HBV, with the prevalence among UAE citizens being 1 to 1.5 per cent.

The UAE is one of the world's least affected countries, where hepatitis C kills around 0.01 people per 100,000.

The World Health Organisation aims to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90 per cent and deaths by 65 per cent between 2016 and 2030.

The UAE has included the hepatitis B vaccine on its schedule of basic vaccinations for children, under the national immunisation programme, since 1991.

“The lack of awareness around HBV means securing appropriate and prompt treatment remains a challenge," said Dr Mohamed Farghaly, Professor of Medicine of Dubai Medical College.

"General practitioners and healthcare physicians also have limited knowledge and expertise in this field, so it is essential to seek advice from specialist centres to ensure that an optimal treatment path is secured."

The survey also found that 82 per cent of patients wanted more control over new treatment paths, particularly for chronic diseases. When considering treatment options for conditions that have a stigma associated with them, 75 per cent of respondents highlighted the importance of voicing their opinion.

A further 80 per cent wanted more control when the treatment path had an impact on their social life.

"Patients now have access to more resources to learn about health conditions and treatment options, however, the volume of information readily available online can be daunting and overwhelming for them once diagnosed," said Dr Sameer Al Ahwadi, President of Emirates Gastroenterology and Hepatology Society.

"Having an open dialogue with a healthcare provider in a confidential environment will give patients a deeper understanding of their individual condition and allow them to take part in defining the treatment course that best suits their lifestyle."

Updated: July 28th 2021, 3:30 AM