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Physicians express concern over growing spread of allergies in Jordan

By Laila Azzeh - May 28,2014 - Last updated at May 28,2014

AMMAN — With around 1.8 million Jordanians suffering from some type of allergy, experts on Wednesday called for coming up with a national registry documenting the cases and comparing them with those of other countries.

Jordanian participants at the fifth International Jordanian Congress of Allergy and Immunology highlighted their concerns over the growing number of allergy-affected people, who constitute 25 per cent of the population, up from 18 per cent only two years ago.

They indicated that there should be a national centre to track the most common types of allergies in the Kingdom and identify them geographically.

“Allergy is a national health concern that is caused by many factors, mainly lifestyle changes, planting olive trees in residential areas, vehicle exhaust fumes and smoking, among others,” said Hani Ababneh, president of the congress and the Jordanian Society of Allergy and Immunology.

He added that the diagnosis and treatment of every allergy patient costs the Kingdom around JD150 per month.

Jordan Medical Association President Hashem Abu Hassan agreed, noting that allergy cases in Jordan increase by 5 per cent every year.

Attending the opening session of the three-day conference, HRH Princess Basma said that “while progress has been steady, we still have a long way to go to understand the immunological basis of many common conditions and to develop the needed treatment”.

“Meanwhile, there is a lot that we can do to prevent and treat some of the common allergy and immunological conditions…” she added.

Citing asthma as an example of chronic and prevalent allergies, which is expected to affect 400 million people worldwide, the princess said the prevalence of asthma in Jordan has doubled over the past decade, stressing the need to put in place interventions that can make a “real” difference in preventing and managing the condition.

“Efforts must be exerted to reduce air pollution such as traffic pollution, but our most important target should be to reduce tobacco smoking, especially the exposure of children to second hand smoking,” she said. 

“This is a top priority not only for asthma control but for all the major non-communicable diseases that are posing a great burden on the population and economy of our country.”

She underlined that the solution will not come from one scientific field or discipline, but through an interdisciplinary approach that brings together scientific, clinical and public health experts.

According to the World Allergy Organisation, an allergy is a hypersensitivity disorder of the immune system. Symptoms include red eyes, itchiness and runny nose, eczema, hives or an asthma attack.

At the congress’ opening ceremony, experts commended the Kingdom’s progress as a regional centre for allergy treatment, becoming the “first Arab country” to be accredited by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI).

Adel Wahadneh, chairman of the congress’ scientific committee, said some 400 participants at the event are discussing 79 research papers.

Organised by EAACI and the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), the conference brings together Jordanian physicians from various medical specialties and 30 scientific researchers.

EAACI representative Moises Calderon and Joseph Bellanti from ACAAI hailed the cooperation between their institutions and Jordan, which enables local doctors to keep up with the latest developments in the field.

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