Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Disclosed recently, the results of a research has revealed that a massive campaign to combat a blood parasite in Egypt went horribly wrong and resulted in an epidemic of Hepatitis C. The research stated that the epidemic effected almost a fifth of the country's population and is the largest transmission of a blood-borne virus through a medical campaign.

Egyptian and us epidemiologists have said in a report that the hepatitis was transmitted through unsterilised needles and reused syringes that were used in a campaign to fight a blood fluke, or worm. Termed the paranteral antischistosomal therapy, the anti-fluke campaign was conducted throughout Egypt from the 1950s to 1980s.

The treatment required the patients to take 12 to 16 intravenous injections of an antimony salt, tartar emetic, over a short period. The epidemic spread because the syringes and needles were not sterilised properly and were used for a number of patients in one sitting. This is strictly prohibited in any kind of medical campaign.

Although the injection campaign was abandoned once cheap oral medicine became available in the market, but by then there had been an "epidemic spread" of Hepatitis C. Possibilities are that many people may also have got infected with Hepatitis B.

Of Egypt's 63.3 million population, 15 to 20 per cent have antibodies to Hepatitis C. This implies that they may carry the virus without having to suffer the symptoms of the disease. Hepatitis C causes a swelling of the liver leading to its malfunction. The symptoms are jaundice, nausea and chronic fatigue.

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