Hepatitis is a serious disease that affects millions of people globally, some experts even term it ‘deadly’. Yet many aren’t aware of the symptoms, causes and danger of the disease. Read why.
It was World Hepatitis Day (WHD) last week and experts were still keen on advising the public to be wary of the disease, how it’s transmitted and where to get treatment.
Various medical sources indicate that there are several different types of hepatitis and some types will pass without any serious problems, while others can be long-lasting (chronic) and cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), loss of liver function and, in some cases, liver cancer.
Dr Leah Kitunda, head of Dodoma’s Satellite blood bank says there is still need for raising more public awareness in order to overcome the disease.
“It’s very unfortunate that majority of the people are not aware of the causes, symptoms and complications of hepatitis, but the disease is very dangerous. If not contained, it might spread very fast and affect many people,” she warned.
Hepatitis B and C viruses are spread through contact with blood or body fluids of a person with the virus, experts say.
For the case of Hepatitis B, the fortunate thing is: There is a vaccine for it.
So, public health information has always been going on in the country saying that people can get vaccinated at Mnazi Mmoja Centre in Dar es Salaam.
Dr John Rwegasha, a Gastroenterologist from Muhimbili National Hospital has once told Your Health that the medication to treat Hepatitis B is expensive.
“So patients who are screened and found to harbor the virus, are given ARV medication such as Tenofovir and Entecavir and their course of treatment lasts for two years,” he says.
The ARVs have been approved by the WHO for treatment of Hepatitis B.
Vaccination programmes usually protect health workers from contracting the disease so that they don’t spread it to other people.
According to a study published in 2015 in the BioMedical Central Journal, there are vaccination programs for healthcare workers against HBV and it’s a standard practice in many countries, including Tanzania.
However, the study, titled: “Prevalence of hepatitis B virus infection among health care workers in a tertiary hospital in Tanzania” shows that the vaccination programs are often not implemented in most resource-poor settings.
Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), one among the five known hepatitis viruses has been mostly diagnosed among Tanzanians.
According to medical sources, an acute infection with hepatitis B virus usually begins with general ill-health, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, body aches, mild fever, and dark urine, and this could progress to being jaundiced (yellow colouration of skin and eyes).
Then, there is Hepatitis A, C, D and E. Hepatitis C virus is also common, and it’s curable but there is no vaccine available yet. The caution remains that people should avoid coming in contact with blood or body fluids of others.
For Hepatitis A, there is a need to reduce the risk of spreading or catching the hepatitis A virus by always washing your hands thoroughly after using the restroom and when one comes in contact with an infected person’s blood, stools, or other bodily fluid.
The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu said last week that the disease prevalence is now double than that of HIV in Tanzania.
“Currently, the prevalence of Hepatitis B is 16 per cent but that of HIV is 5.3 per cent,’’ said Ms Mwalimu.
She noted, however, that there is no reliable data yet to ascertain the exact burden of the disease in Tanzania.
“We rely on data obtained from blood donation centres,’’ she said on WHD in Dar es Salaam.
Data obtained from Dodoma’s Satellite Blood Bank show that 7 to15 people out of 100 who turned up to donate blood were diagnosed with various forms of hepatitis.
The World Health Organisation said last on Friday that Viral hepatitis affected 325 million people worldwide in 2015, with 257 million people living with hepatitis B and 71 million people living with hepatitis C - the two main killers of the five types of hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015 – a figure close to the number of TB deaths and exceeding deaths linked to HIV, said the WHO.
Additional reporting by Valentino Oforo in Dodoma.
Infographic courtesy: World Health Organisation