Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by viruses such as virus Hepatitis A, B, C ,D and E. Hepatitis B and C may lead to chronic liver disease that cause significant economic and disease burden to us in Malaysia. These conditions are usually asymptomatic or the person only experience mild nonspecific flu-like symptoms at the time of infection and for most of the early part of the disease. These inflammation is variable from minimal scarring to extensive fibrosis. In the long run this may lead to hardening of the liver known as liver cirrhosis. Cirrhosis of the liver can progress to further complications which includes chronic liver failure, liver cancer or death.
Viral hepatitis affected 325 million people worldwide in 2015 with 257 million people with hepatitis B and 71 million people with hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million death in 2015 – a figure close to the number of TB death and exceeding death linked to HIV. In Malaysia, it is estimated approximately 380,000 people contracting with hepatitis C.
We have effective treatment to control hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C. Progression of chronic Hepatitis B can be controlled with effective oral medication that is available at most government hospitals. Not all hepatitis B patients require medications. Nevertheless, follow-up hospital visits are necessary for early detection of complications of chronic viral hepatitis such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Whereas, Hepatitis C can be cured .With the new oral direct acting antivirals (DAAs) taken for 3 to 6 months cure rates have been reported close to 100 % . However as of 2015, only 7% of the 71 million people with chronic hepatitis C had access to treatment as treatment is very expensive. Here in Malaysia, the Ministry of Health, Malaysia is working with other partners to find affordable treatment to treat the many people living with hepatitis C. Very soon we will have the results, I hope this will give us a simple yet affordable treatment regimen for an accessible and sustainable hepatitis C program.
The MOH is also drawing up a national strategic plan for viral hepatitis control and elimination. We need both governmental and external agencies working together and hepatitis C champions to fulfill what we are setting out to accomplish. We also need to diagnose those with the infection through blood tests as chronic viral hepatitis is a silent disease. As public, we have a role to play in eliminating hepatitis. If you have the risk for infections please go to a health facility for the blood tests or if you know a friend who may have the infection, please advise your friend to do the same. If you have viral hepatitis, please see a doctor for assessment to see if you need treatment. And if a treatment has been prescribed for you please take them properly.
World Hepatitis Day is celebrated around the world, on the 28th July every year to raise awareness, understandings about the disease, encourage individuals, policy makers and partners for actions. Our event today is part of the Ministry of Health of Malaysia respond to the call for actions by WHO.
DATUK DR. NOOR HISHAM ABDULLAH
DIRECTOR GENERAL OF HEALTH MALAYSIA
29th July 2017