World Hepatitis Day 2016 – Message from the Minister of Public Health, Hon. Dr. George A. Norton
Guyana joins with the rest of the Americas in observing World Hepatitis Day on July 28 under the theme: “Prevent Hepatitis. Act Now”. July 28 has been designated each year towards the observance of World Hepatitis Day in honouring the birthday of Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg. He discovered the hepatitis B virus and subsequently developed the first hepatitis B vaccine.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 400 million people are living with hepatitis B and C worldwide. Viral Hepatitis is a group of infectious diseases caused by different strains of hepatitis virus and includes but not limited to types A, B, C, D and E. This group of viral hepatitis affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease with mortality close to 1.5 million people every year, mostly from hepatitis B and C. Viral hepatitis is referred to as a “silent epidemic” since most people do not realize they are infected (asymptomatic) and, over decades, slowly progress to liver disease.
Guyana has had success with its Immunization Programme over the last decades. In the 1970’s, the programme started to vaccinate against six (6) diseases namely measles, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, diphtheria, tuberculosis. In 2012, additional antigens against the following diseases;, yellow fever, hepatitis B, mumps, heamophilus influenza, rubella, rotavirus and pneumococcal, meningococcal and human papilloma virus were introduced. There has been remarkable progress towards protecting our nation from vaccine preventable diseases. Moreover, the Ministry of Public Health has moved from a childhood programme of vaccination over the last decade to include adolescents, and now the entire family. Our motto -”Not any child or family left unvaccinated.”
I encourage you to ‘Know Hepatitis- Are you at risk, get tested and if you are positive seek treatment.
As the Minister of Public Health, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our health care workers and all our UN partners and internal supporters for the tremendous efforts over the years as we work towards eradicating viral hepatitis.