Hepatitis cases soar in Athens

Hepatitis cases are on the rise in western Athens, mainly due to an influx of illegal immigrants from countries with a high incidence of the disease, doctors said yesterday. According to Evmorfia Sagana, head of the Aghia Varvara Hospital’s microbiology department, 14.6 percent of a specific national group of economic immigrants living in western Athens is infected with hepatitis B, when the average for the Greek population is just 2 percent. Furthermore, 23 percent of all immigrants from a specific Asian country are carriers of the virulent hepatitis C strain. The average among Greeks is 1-1.5 percent. Sagana warned that the high incidence could «have an adverse effect on Greece’s epidemiological image.» She was speaking at a press conference ahead of a two-day medical conference on hepatitis B and C that opens in Athens tomorrow. Doctors also warned that hepatitis is rife among drug addicts, with some 70 percent of intravenous drug users suffering from both forms of the virus.