x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UAE hepatitis screening rules have been relaxed

Mandatory tests for hepatitis C no longer exist and visa screening and deportation for hepatitis B only applies to certain professions.

ABU DHABI // In recent years the UAE has made moves to relax rules surrounding medical tests for those seeking work permits.

This means that mandatory tests for hepatitis C no longer exist and visa screening and deportation for hepatitis B only applies to certain professions.

It was in 2010 that the Ministry of Health announced an overhaul of the residency medical law.

Before then, examinations for both forms of hepatitis applied to every expatriate wanting to live and work in the Emirates.

Previously, those seeking employment visas in the country found to have hepatitis C during the screening process had to have medical treatment, said Dr Salim Awadh, consultant gastroenterologist at the Advanced Centre for Day Care Surgery, Abu Dhabi.

Dr Awadh said the new laws mean that visa screening tests for hepatitis B now only applies to six specified categories of expatriates – nannies, housemaids, and nursery workers; hairdressing salon workers; beauty centre workers; health club workers; anyone working in processing or food-control authorities; and those in cafes and restaurants.

These are professions that have more human-to-human contact, he explained.

Moves are now being made to relax the rules further, so they do not apply to those working in cafes or restaurants, he added.

While hepatitis B remains on the deportable diseases list, only those working in the six specified categories can be deported.

He said the prevalence of hepatitis B is about two per cent among Emiratis.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) chose July 28 as World Hepatitis Day as it is the birthday of Dr Baruch Blumberg, who discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and, two years later, discovered a vaccine for the disease.

As WHO marks its third annual World Hepatitis Day, it said about two billion people worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B since its discovery and about 600,000 people die every year as a result of the infection.

About 150 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis C virus and more than 350,000 people die every year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases, WHO said.

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