HomeNews EventsNewsThe Norms in Hepatitis C Outbreaks

The Norms in Hepatitis C Outbreaks

02 Dec 2015

Victrelis, a drug to treat hepatitis C. The disease is a silent infection, with only one in five patients developing acute symptoms such as fatigue, vomiting or jaundice after a period of two weeks to six months. Photo: ST File Photo

Outbreaks and epidemics are often recognised by an explosion of sudden infections and high mortality rates, as seen in the recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa or the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. 

The recent outbreak of Hepatitis C at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) is different, from its mode of transmission to the lack of symptoms present, which has led Hepatitis C epidemics to be termed "shadow epidemics" by epidemiologists.

Prof Chia Kee Seng and Prof David Heymann shed light on the preventive measures and challenges in detecting a hepatitis C outbreak. In Singapore, routine testing is done at blood banks to ensure blood is safe for transmission, while new renal patients are also screened for Hepatitis C antibodies.

Owing to the delayed onset of symptoms, confirming an outbreak may also take up to six months, and no single cause of the outbreak was determined in many of the 335 hepatitis C outbreaks which have occurred globally since 1994.    

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