The Egyptian health minister has revealed the results of a survey that claims to show a reduction in the prevalence of hepatitis in the Egyptian population.
According to survey data released by minister Ahmed Emad El-Din at a conference on Monday, four in every 100 Egyptians are infected with the hepatitis-C, while one in every 100 citizens is infected with hepatitis-B.
This puts the total number of hepatitis-C cases at approximately 3.5 million, and the number of hepatitis-B cases at 800,000, according to the survey results.
The survey tested for the prevalence both forms of the virus among citizens aged between one and 59, Emad El-Din said, and the results revealed an overall reduction in the number of cases nationwide.
The previous survey, conducted in 2008, set the overall infection rate at 10%, compared to the 7% reported by the survey announced on Monday.
The survey included at least 27,000 Egyptians across Egypt, in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The new results indicate a decrease in the prevalence rate of virus C and virus B in Egypt, which has resulted from the state’s focus on the issue,” Emad El-Din said during the conference.
“The ministry will pay for the medical treatment of between 600,000 and 1 million citizens infected with hepatitis-B and C during the course of a year, using new medicines,” he added.
According to Amr Kandil, head of the preventative medicine department at the ministry, the new results will give Egypt a better international ranking in terms of the prevalence of liver diseases. Instead of being positioned as a country with a middle rate of prevalence, it will be a country with a low rate, he said.
According to WHO reports up to 2015, Egypt had higher rates of hepatitis-C infection than neighbouring countries, as well as other countries in the world with comparable socioeconomic conditions and hygienic standards for invasive medical, dental, or paramedical procedures.
However, some are sceptical regarding the new survey’s accuracy, suggesting that the survey sample is too small and not representative of the population as a whole.
Mohamed Ezz El-Arab, a liver specialist at the National Centre for Liver Diseases, told Daily News Egypt: “The sample chosen for the survey is very small and using it as an indicator for the overall Virus-C infection rate is inaccurate.”
He added: “There should be a population-based study on a more comprehensive scale, instead of depending on those who make checks in the hospital. The study should be made in every city separately.”
According to Ezz El-Arab, this method would contribute to a better understanding of the causes of the virus, helping to provide preventative measures, rather than limiting efforts to treatment.
In May, the ministry launched an Egyptian version of the Sovaldi drug used to treat hepatitis-C, provided at a much cheaper price than non-Egyptian alternatives. The price of an original pack of Sovaldi can reach up to EGP 15,000, while the Egyptian alternative is sold for only EGP 1,600.
The new Egyptian drug is being produced in local pharmaceutical factories using alternative chemical substitutes, instead of being imported.
The mass survey released on Monday also found that high blood pressure was more common among men than women. Meanwhile, overweight women were more likely to suffer from high blood pressure than women of a regular weight.