Dr. Cummings calls for more testing, treatment of vulnerable and at-risk groups for hepatitis

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As Guyana and the world observe World Hepatitis Day on Wednesday, Opposition MP and Shadow Health Minister, Dr. Karen Cummings, said the APNU+AFC is encouraging local policy-makers and health care workers to provide more access to testing and treatment of hepatitis, according to a statement from the coalition.

Dr. Cummings said “such essential services” should also be made available, especially to vulnerable and at-risk groups such as drug users, prisoners, migrants and other affected populations — particularly in this COVID-19 pandemic.

The former government minister said increased screening of pregnant mothers and the expansion of infant vaccination in Guyana should be done if hepatitis is to be eliminated by 2030.

According to the World Health Organization, Dr. Cummings said viral hepatitis is responsible for about 1.1 million deaths and three million new infections annually.

She said viral hepatitis can cause severe liver disease and cancer. And of the five different types of hepatitis (A, B, C, D, and E), 325 million people are living with viral hepatitis B, which is commonly transmitted from mother to child during delivery and in early childhood. Hepatitis C is spread by the exposure to blood through unsafe health care procedures and injection drug use, the MP noted.

She explained: ” Although much progress has been made over the years through the prevention and treatment of hepatitis and by vaccinating our infants, it has been reported that 10% of persons in the world are diagnosed with hepatitis B, 22 percent are receiving treatment and only 42 percent of children globally have access to the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine.

“Let us spread the word, as millions of lives are still at risk. We must combine our efforts and voices to raise awareness that ending hepatitis is achievable collectively at the global and local levels – as hepatitis ‘can’t wait’,” she added.

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