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WORLD HEPATITIS DAY

Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World Hepatitis Day (WHD) on the 28th of July, 2016 with the intent of creating awareness and equipping people with simple but adequate information on this viral disease.

According to WHO, Hepatitis is a general term meaning inflammation of the liver and can be caused by a variety of different viruses such as hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.  Acute infection occurs with limited or no symptoms or may include symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Hepatitis is now a leading cause of death globally, according to the WHO, 1.5 million people in the world die from acute liver disease resulting from Hepatitis mostly Hepatitis B and C.

Researchers posit that one reason why Hepatitis B and C are the most deadly of the Hepatitis Viruses could be because they cause long-term infections with few immediate symptoms. Thus, affected individuals carry on unaware until a more serious condition emerges, such as serious damage or cancer.

Nigeria has 20 to 30 million people affected with Hepatitis B according to the WHO and with a percentage of 13.7; Nigeria has one of the highest cases of Hepatitis B in the world. Meanwhile, there is a vaccine for Hepatitis B which is 95% effective yet, most of the world is not vaccinated while Hepatitis C remains without a vaccine.

Facts

  • The five main types of hepatitis are caused by viruses.
  • Hepatitis A is caused by consuming contaminated food or water.
  • Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted disease.
  • Hepatitis C is commonly spread via direct contact with the blood of a person who has the disease.
  • A person can only become infected with Hepatitis D if they are affected with Hepatitis B
  • A person can become infected with the Hepatitis E virus (HEV) by drinking contaminated water.

SYMPTOM

There are varying symptoms from the initial stage to when it degenerates to a dangerous stage and they include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle or joint aches
  • Nausea
  • Slight abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Symptoms at the complicated stage include

  • Circulation problem
  • Dark urine
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Headache
  • Hives
  • Itchy skin
  • Light coloured feces, the feces may contain PUS
  • Yellow skin, whites of eyes, tongue (Jaundice)

Jaundice patient

It is believed that those resident in rural areas are more susceptible to Hepatitis because of the factors prevalent there such as poor health care provision. However, Nigerians in urban areas are also suffering immensely from this viral disease as there are no concerted measures to see that the number of those who fall victim to this silent killer is reduced. Like the relative success achieved with Malaria and Tuberculosis where the death rate has dropped, it becomes pertinent that viral treatment for Hepatitis is available, affordable and accessible.

Treatment

The treatment for hepatitis includes the following:

  • Bed rest, abstaining from alcohol, and taking medication to help relieve symptoms. Most people who have hepatitis A and E get well on their own after a few weeks.
  • Hepatitis B is treated with drugs, such as lamivudine and adefovir dipivoxil. Hepatitis C is treated with a combination of peginterferon and ribovarin.

Prevention

The prevention of hepatitis can be specific or general. Specific in that the types have of hepatitis have some definite preventive measure peculiar to them but there are some that can apply to all. The National Institutes of Health in America avers the following preventive measures:

  • Hepatitis A

Immunization of children (1-18 years of age) consists of two or three doses of the vaccine. Adults need a booster dose six to 12 months following the initial dose of vaccine. The vaccine is thought to be effective for 15–20 years or more.

  • Hepatitis B

Safe and effective vaccines provide protection against hepatitis B for 15 years and possibly much longer. Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all newborns and individuals up to 18 years of age and adult participating at risk of infection be vaccinated. Three injections over a six to 12 month period are required to provide full protection.

In General:

  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before fixing food or eating.
  • Use latex condoms, which may lower the risk of transmission.
  • Avoid tap water when traveling to certain countries or regions. Ask your doctor about risks before you travel or call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 877-FYI-TRIP.
  • Don’t share drug needles.
  • Don’t share personal items—such as toothbrushes, razors and nail clippers—with an infected person.

The Nigerian government should ensure that attention is given to this growing virus by equipping our health institutions to tackle the Hepatitis virus and make viral treatment available, affordable and accessible.

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