My dear reader, I bet you have never thought that hepatitis is real and serious until you find out that at least 40 per cent of our general population is at a higher risk to acquire the disease.
It was on July 28 last month, on World Hepatitis Day, when I came across one of the studies that was done by International Association for Medical Assistance to Travelers (IAMAT).
Their study on ‘Hepatitis Prevalence’ came to a conclusion that in Sub-Saharan region particularly around East Africa, at least four out of ten people are believed to be infected with hepatitis at some point in their lives.
Ignorance, poor awareness and inadequate access to medical care remained the leading factor.
These statistics are worrisome! Aren’t they?
What is hepatitis?
Liver is one of the delicate organs in our body, which some of its major functions are detoxifying the blood, storing vitamins and producing hormones.
In some occasions, liver can be invaded by different medical conditions leading to its dysfunction and even death. And one of the major medical conditions which can attack the liver is hepatitis.
Hepatitis is the condition that causes the inflammation of the liver cells and damage it. Hepatitis is majorly and commonly caused by viral infection.
Though in some rare chances it can be caused by some other factors for instance autoimmune disorders, a condition where by your antibodies attacks your own liver tissue. But this is very rare so let’s talk about viral hepatitis.
As I said, hepatitis is commonly caused by a viral infection. These viruses are medically known as hepatitis viruses.
These viruses are classified in A, B, C, D and E categories. But in Tanzania, the most common type of viruses is hepatitis B followed by hepatitis C.
Causes and symptoms
Like any other viral diseases, there are plenty of risk factors and causes leading to one being infected with the hepatitis virus.
Hepatitis can be contracted through body contact with an infected person, and this body contact can involve blood or any body fluids.
In other words, one can get hepatitis infection through having unprotected sexual intercourse with infected person, sharing personal items such as a toothbrush or razor with an infected person, being bitten by someone who is infected, sharing a needle with an infected person, often for illegal drug or steroid use, or even infected mother can pass the virus on to her infant when breastfeeding.
Infact, the risk factors for hepatitis are quite similar to those of HIV/AIDS.
In many cases, hepatitis infection is asymptomatic. It sometimes takes 30 days or even months for symptoms to show up after infection.
You should therefore, pay attention to its symptoms that includes fatigue, malaise, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice. All these symptoms are on and off and can last for even up to a month or two.
It is preventable
The bad news is, unless treated in its initial stages, in severe cases hepatitis kills. But the good news is, hepatitis is preventable. And this prevention comes through vaccination.
The only thing you need to do is to firstly get screened, if your results will turn out positive, then it’s a good thing, it’s diagnosed in its earliest stages that it will be easy for you to pull through treatment and get healed.
And if your results appear negative, you will start routine vaccination for full prevention as you will be directed by your health care provider. Being fully vaccinated means you will never get hepatitis infection ever in your life.
Everyone is reminded to abstain from its risk factors, mostly unprotected sexual activities. Let’s control what we can, and lastly; hepatitis vaccination services are available at almost any of your walk-in hospital. So, be kind to your liver and get vaccinated today.