Lebanon reports a new hepatitis A outbreak in Tripoli

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Lebanon’s second largest city Tripoli has reported 174 cases of hepatitis A since an outbreak began in recent weeks.

Health officials believe it could be linked to possible contamination that emerged during work on a local water system in late April.

However, the North Lebanon Water Corporation has stated that Tripoli’s water is safe for domestic and drinking water use.

A Tripoli-based doctor said it’s likely there are a handful of people who have also contracted hepatitis A but are unaware of it.

Hepatitis A, which typically has an incubation period of two to four weeks, is a highly transmissible infection of the liver and is often associated with poor hygiene.

The disease “can cause debilitating symptoms and, rarely, acute liver failure, which is often fatal,” the World Health Organization said.

Symptoms “range from mild to severe and can include fever, malaise, loss of appetite, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal discomfort, dark-colored urine, and yellowing of the eyes and skin,” the WHO reported, although “not everyone who is infected will have all of the symptoms to have”.

Joseph Bakhache, head of the Lebanese Medical Association, described hepatitis A as “a highly contagious disease which, in exceptional cases, can lead to a lack of liver activity”.

This was announced by Lebanon‘s Health Minister Firass Abiad The National that hepatitis A is endemic in the country and outbreaks are not uncommon, although he admitted the outbreak was larger than normal.

“We’ve had cases before, but not as big as this outbreak,” he said.

There were thought to be as many as 250 cases, but Dr. Abiad said this was incorrect and due to duplicate case reports.

Health authorities are now working to contain the outbreak and ensure local water supplies are safe, he added.

“We test very regularly. And we have increased our testing scope to ensure that if there is contamination, we know about it very early on and can then take care of it.”

The UN Children’s Fund also helps to give people access to clean water.

“Tripoli is an area with high poverty rates,” said Dr. Abiad. “And given the economic situation, it’s understandable that people may not have unlimited access to clean water.”

Lebanon is experiencing a severe economic meltdown, plunging much of the country into poverty. The local currency has lost more than 90 percent of its value, while the state-owned electricity company is able to provide electricity for only a few hours a day – if at all – forcing people to resort to expensive private generators.

Updated June 14, 2022 at 2:27 p.m

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