Bristol-Myers launches Hepatitis B awareness drive
Dubai, November 26, 2008
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMS), a global pharmaceutical and health care products company, has launched the 'B-Aware campaign,' an educational programme aimed at raising awareness on hepatitis B in the UAE.
B-Aware is part of a global campaign designed by Bristol-Myers Squibb to address hepatitis B, a disease that is a serious global health issue with about 400 million people infected with chronic hepatitis B worldwide.
Hepatitis B is the 10th leading cause of death worldwide. This easily transmitted, often silent-but-deadly infection attacks the liver and can progress to cirrhosis, liver cancer, and even death.
Through community events, public service announcements, and educational materials, the B-Aware campaign seeks to help prevent the spread of infection by identifying risk factors; encourage at-risk populations to be tested, and treated if needed and discuss, where applicable, the availability of a vaccine to prevent infection, said a company official.
“Bristol-Myers Squibb is committed to helping patients whose lives are affected by infectious diseases, such as hepatitis B,” said Dr Tarek Nassar, BMS medical director for the Middle East.
“The B-Aware campaign seeks to educate the public on this growing health problem in the hopes that those exposed to hepatitis B can take the necessary steps to protect themselves and their loved ones.”
“The problem with the hepatitis B virus is that it is 100 times more infectious than HIV , the virus that causes AIDS, yet so many people know little to nothing about it,” said Dr Salem Awad Sabih, Gastroenterology and Hepatology Consultant at Mafraq Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
“More importantly, these same people may be infected, and may unknowingly be infecting others.”
“Of the 10 million people chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus in Europe and the Middle East, only 10 percent have been diagnosed, and of those, only 10 percent are being treated. ” said Dr Mazen Taha, Gastroenterology and Hepatology consultant at Tawam Hospital, Al Ain.
“A simple blood test can determine whether one is infected with HBV, and if the test is positive, a doctor will determine whether treatment is necessary.”
“The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through contact with infected blood or bodily fluids, and the most common mode of transmission varies by geographic region,” said Dr Asaad Al Dajani, Gastroenterology and Hepatology consultant, at Asaad Al Dajani Specialized Center, Sharjah.
“In Asia and the Middle East, the virus is predominantly spread through mother-to-child and child-to-child transmission. Other common modes of transmission include: sharing personal items such as toothbrushes and razors; and unsterilised equipment used in body piercings and tattoos. Infected mothers can also pass the virus on to their babies during childbirth.”
The World Health Organisation estimates that 25 per cent of people with chronic hepatitis B will eventually die from liver cancer.