Civil society organizations ask stakeholders to intensify sensitization about Hepatitis
Uganda has today joined the rest of the world to commemorate World Hepatitis Day the under the theme ‘bringing hepatitis care closer to you.’
This is intended to focus on raising awareness about the need to make Hepatitis care more accessible, so that people can get better access to treatment and medical care in the primary health facilities and communities.
Civil society organizations have called upon stakeholders to intensify sensitization to create more awareness against the disease which leads to severe liver disease and liver cancer.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) Hepatitis affects people in different ways, whereas some may face fatigue, stomach pain or fever, others may not even know that they have Hepatitis. A section of people develop serious health ailments, which include liver failure or brain damage.
Dr Mumbere Sam, the in-charge of Bahamagara Medical Clinics operating in Kazo Town Council, Kazo District revealed that the disease goes mostly undetected due to an absence of symptoms until it is too late for treatment causing preventable loss of life as the tragic result.
Dr Mumbere urged people to vaccinate, avoid having unprotected sex with an infected person, continuous testing, and others ways to protect themselves from contracting viral infections which are the most common causes of hepatitis.
According to Dr Mumbere, Hepatitis B infection is caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) which is passed from person to person through blood, semen or other body fluids and clarified that it does not spread by sneezing or coughing.
According to Ministry of Health, Common ways that Hepatitis B virus can spread are:
- Sexual contact. one may get hepatitis B if they have unprotected sex with someone who is infected and the virus can pass to someone if the person’s blood, saliva, semen or vaginal secretions enter their body.
- Sharing of needles. HBV easily spreads through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing IV drug paraphernalia puts one at high risk of hepatitis B.
- Mother to child. Pregnant women infected with HBV can pass the virus to their babies during childbirth.
- Accidental needle sticks. Hepatitis B is a concern for health care workers and anyone else who comes in contact with human blood.
Hepatitis B signs and symptoms may include:
- 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)
The hepatitis B vaccine is typically given as three or four injections over six months and one can’t get hepatitis B from the vaccine.
Dr Mumbere noted that vaccination is one proven effective way of preventing hepatitis, which is why it is recommended at the earliest age possible adding although there is no known cure at moment, hepatitis can be preventable with immunization and manageable.
The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for: newborns, children and adolescents not vaccinated at birth, people who live with someone who has hepatitis B, health care workers, emergency workers, people who have multiple sexual partners and people who come into contact with blood of anyone who has a sexually transmitted infection, including HIV among others.
Dr. Diana Atwiine, the permanent secretary for ministry of health revealed that free Hepatitis screening is available at all HC IIIs up to National Referral Hospital while treatment is administered from HC IVs up to National Referral level.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa revealed that more than 90 million people are living with hepatitis in Africa, accounting for 26% of the global total.
“I appeal to people across Africa to seek testing and treatment for hepatitis. We need to take collective responsibility for eliminating this disease by 2030,”said Dr. Moeti in a statement.
WHO aims at achieving hepatitis elimination by 2030, and has called upon countries to achieve specific targets which includes;
- Reducing new infections of hepatitis B and C by 90%;
- Reducing hepatitis related deaths from liver cirrhosis and cancer by 65%;
- Ensuring that at least 90% of people with hepatitis B and C virus are diagnosed; and that at least 80% of those eligible receive appropriate treatment.