Though hepatitis is a prevalent virus in countries throughout the world, Greece, in particular, has been facing difficulties preventing its spread. Recent economic struggles have negatively impacted the Greek health care system, leading to a lack of vaccinations. However, Greece is slowly but surely resolving the issues their healthcare system has faced, working hard to eliminate hepatitis. Here are seven facts about hepatitis in Greece.
7 Facts About Hepatitis in Greece
- In 2008, the vaccine for hepatitis A (HAV) became free to all children. Hepatitis A affects the liver and can be found in contaminated food and water. Between 1998 and 2006, the reported cases of HAV were highest among children up to the age of 14. Rates of infection have decreased, however, since the vaccine was made free. It has become essential in preventing cases of HAV, and instances of the virus will continue to slow over time.
- HAV vaccines are recommended for travelers visiting Greece. This is not just to prevent the traveler from getting HAV, but also to prevent asymptomatic patients of HAV from spreading it to others, as symptoms may not develop for 15-50 days after exposure.
- Immigrants are a high-risk group for hepatitis. Albania is a country with one of the highest rates of hepatitis B (HBV) in the world, and 65 percent of immigrants in Greece are from Albania. Though immigration may be a source of HBV in Greece, it is important to note that hepatitis B is preventable by vaccines, and combinations of antivirals have been proven to treat HBV in recent years.
- In recent years, Greece has gained access to studies of groups considered “high-risk,” to HBV. These high-risk groups include HIV positive patients, prisoners, refugees, pregnant women, and drug users. By studying high-risk groups and HBV patients within them, Greece has been able to gain more accurate data on the exact number of cases within the country, as well as preventative methods.
- Public-oriented programs targeting hepatitis control are working. The Viral Hepatitis Prevention Board (VHPB) has a very active presence in Greece and has assisted the Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (HCDCP) in expanding its strategy from just addressing HIV/AIDS to addressing viral hepatitis as well. These programs work to educate Grecians on hepatitis, make vaccines more accessible to vulnerable communities and study existing cases of acute and chronic hepatitis.
- The most common risk factors for developing hepatitis C (HCV) in Greece are easily prevented. They include perinatal transmission and sexual transmission. However, the risk of transmitting HCV through medical procedures has significantly decreased. Sterilization and an increase in single-use syringes in hospitals have led to this.
- Many infected individuals are asymptomatic. After Greece’s National Public Health Organisation (NPHO) discovered that 75,000 of 300,000 carriers of hepatitis B or C were not aware that they were infected, the National Action Plan began requiring that Grecians born between 1945 and 1980 must be checked for hepatitis antibodies, in order to identify adults that have HCV but are asymptomatic. The goal is to eliminate HCV by 2030.
Although hepatitis is a virus found worldwide, Greece has faced its fair share of struggles grappling with it. Many at-risk are part of the most vulnerable populations in Greece: immigrants, people struggling in poverty, individuals who already have medical conditions, and those lacking access to medical care and education. However, treatments and vaccinations are always advancing. With improvements in the country’s economy and healthcare system, cases of hepatitis in Greece will continue to dwindle.
– Alyson Kaufman