Did you know that a person dies every 30 seconds globally from a hepatitis related illness? As a result, the World Hepatitis Day is one of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) seven officially mandated global public health days.
This day is observed on 28th July every year, on the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg who discovered the hepatitis B virus in 1967 and consequently, 2 years later he developed the first hepatitis B vaccine.
This year’s theme is “Hepatitis can’t wait”, conveying the urgency of efforts needed to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
According to the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA), this year’s theme is aimed at raising the hepatitis virus global burden awareness. The organization has outlined various key points that need urgent attention if we are to eliminate this virus. As a result, the can’t wait theme hopes to address the following issues.
- People living with hepatitis can’t wait for life-saving treatments
- Expectant mothers can’t wait for hepatitis screening and treatment
- Newborn babies can’t wait for birth dose vaccination
- People affected by hepatitis can’t wait to end stigma and discrimination
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that causes severe liver disease and hepatocellular cancer. It’s commonly caused by a viral infection.
Types of hepatitis
There are 5 types of Hepatitis Virus namely
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Hepatitis D
- Hepatitis E
Globally, Hepatitis B and C are the most common types of Hepatitis Virus. As per the statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO), these two variants are responsible for over 1.1 million deaths and 3 million new infections per year. Statistics add that 9.4 million people are receiving treatment for chronic hepatitis C virus infection. Furthermore, 10% % of people who have chronic infection with hepatitis B virus are diagnosed with only 22% of them receiving treatment.
Overview of hepatitis B
Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). Chronic hepatitis B increases your risk of developing liver failure, liver cancer or cirrhosis. Globally, about two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus and about 350 million of them have the virus for life.
The highest burden of disease is in Sub Sahara Africa and Eastern Asia, obviously in the predominantly third world countries. The World Health Organisation has categorised Kenya as an endemic area with a prevalence of over 8%.
According to a study done in 2014 titled Guidelines for the Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis B and C Viral Infections in Kenya, Hepatitis B is the most prevalent type of hepatitis in Kenya followed by hepatitis A.
In the report, about half (50.6%) of the patients tested during research had hepatitis B virus. Eldoret had the highest number of Hepatitis cases at 92.9% followed by Mombasa (81.8%), Kisumu (79.8%) and Nairobi (33.8%).
Causes of Hepatitis B
According to the Control for Disease Centre (CDC) hepatitis B virus (HBV). is the leading cause of Hepatitis B. For instance, hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. This can happen in various forms
- Sexual contact
- Sharing needles
- Syringes or other drug injection equipment
- Mother to baby at birth
Symptoms of hepatitis B
Signs and symptoms of hepatitis B range from mild to severe. According to Mayo Clinic, these are the most common symptoms:
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
There are various treatment options as recommended by Healthline, available for Hepatitis B depending on the type of hepatitis. Acute hepatitis B doesn’t require specific treatment however, antiviral medication is recommended for chronic hepatitis B.
- Responsible sexual behaviour. This can be done through use of Condoms among sexually active people. Through MYDAWA you can purchase condoms at your convenience.
- Screening all pregnant women, therefore, reducing mother to child infection.
- Providing rehabilitation services for injecting drug users.
- Use of Hepatitis B vaccine among vulnerable groups, therefore, slowing the rate of infection.
In conclusion, as we commemorate this day, a lot needs to be done to curb hepatitis B. On this day, we encourage a real political change to jointly facilitate prevention, diagnosis and treatment of this killer disease.2