Hepatitis C, is spreading throughout Egypt, causing a major public health crisis, with more than 11 million people infected, and a half million getting infected each year. Liver disease has become the top cause of mortality in Egypt, and mathematical models predict an upsurge in cases of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in the years to come. Egypt has by the far the highest levels and rate of increase of Hepatitis C in the world.
The epidemic originated in the late 1960’s when public health workers used unsterilized needles to treat people with Belahresia, an illness born from unsanitatry water conditions. Since then, the virus has continued to spread due to inadequate sterilization at medical facilities, lack of adequate testing and unhygienic habits of barbers, tattooing and circumcision.
The availability and cost of treatment for hepatitis C in Egypt is quite prohibitive. The treatment consists of a 48 weeks course of interferon injections and cost around 70,000 EGP ( $12,250). Only 20 % of patients can be cured from Hepatitis C. There is no vaccine for it and when the virus activates it causes liver failure cirossis or cancer.
Every person in Egypt is at risk of getting infected if they have to get medical support for any reason. Any procedure formal or informal at a medical and dental facility is a danger. Because Hepatitic C is a silent virus and can live dormant, people find out by chance, or when they apply for work. Because Egypt’s Hepatitic C levels are so high Arab states have demanded that people get screened. Some government companies also require this test too.
The story starts at the National Liver institute (National Hepatology And Tropical Medicine Research Institute) it is the main facility that provides service for patients with hepatitic C in the capital city of Cairo. At any given day the number of admittance are around 300 and on Sundays and Thursdays they can reach up to 900. These patients are in various stages of the disease and come to collect their medication, get checked by the doctor or get emergency help when the liver fails completely. In rural Cairo the situation in even worst the percentage of Hepatitic C reached 15 %. People in the village of Mahalet malek do no even have the medical facilities of the state and depend on the support of local NGO’s.
At the Central health laboratory, here people get tested for liver antibodies as part of the employment procedures. It is here where most people find out they have Hepatitic C. Once a person is found to be positive his life will be altered in a drastic way. He is usually referred to the National Liver institute.
More Visual Storytelling in an Open Society features.