World Hepatitis Day 2019
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. The viruses are the most common source of infections worldwide. Other toxic substances can also cause hepatitis.
Yesterday, Sunday, 28th July was World Hepatitis Day. It is a celebration of the progress that has been made in viral hepatitis elimination. This is a chance for the general public, medical professionals, policy makers to come together to make a call for the elimination of the disease.
Morning Crossfire today is designed to show Nigerians what they need to know about hepatitis, what they should do about it, and to re-appraise the theme for this year’s Hepatitis Day which is titled ‘Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis’. The disease kills about 1.4 million people every year. Four thousand lives are lost to the disease every hour. That is far more death than that resulting from HIV/AIDS. Currently, 290 million people live with viral hepatitis without knowing it.
Dr. Tuyi Mebawondu explains why this disease is a big deal. “Hepatitis generally means inflammation or infection of the liver. The one we are talking about today is viral hepatitis. It is hepatitis caused by viruses. And there are viruses A, B, C, D, and E. but the World Hepatitis Day was created because of the hepatitis B and C especially. The virus targets the liver and the first time when the person contacts the infection, most commonly, is through body fluid like HIV. That’s why it is important to screen blood donation, that’s why it is important to have sterile needle when someone is injecting himself, including barbing and all these tattoo marks.
“There’s an incubation period of about three months, after that the person will feel some strange symptoms like feeling weak, tired, just like malaria, and it comes with low-grade fever. The final thing about hepatitis is that the person starts having yellowness of the eyes when the disease starts affecting the liver. The liver is structured to do a lot of functions including the converting of damaged red blood cells. People will lack appetite for food. The stool will be pale color, and the urine will be very dark like Coca-Cola color and these are clear-cut pointers to hepatitis. For some people, they will not show the symptoms. But if it leads to the chronic stage, it can lead to liver damage, or cancer of the liver, and then death.
“But why is it a big deal? First and foremost, viral hepatitis is a public health burden. It has infected as much as 340 million plus people worldwide and this disease is killing 1.4 million people every year, while HIV/AIDS only kill about 500 thousand every year, while tuberculosis kill 1.3 million. So, when we combine HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, hepatitis kills more people than those two when combined. Many people with hepatitis don’t even know that they are carriers. How do you prevent what you know nothing about? If you want to prevent or take action against something, you must be informed about it.
“To make things worse, the kind of attention given to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis has not been given to hepatitis. We tend to act as if the disease is not there, so information is very important if we need act against hepatitis,“ Dr. Tuyi says.
He also says that Nigeria must review its public health to focus on some key diseases. HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and hepatitis should be looked at properly at the same time so that as people are getting tested for one, they will also be tested for the two others. “We can then extend our strategic health intervention in terms of universal health coverage to look into these areas, create awareness, go to the grassroots, ensure it is tested; also make the test cheap, and link people to where they can get help and treatment.”
To give more attention to hepatitis, Dr. Tuyi says a World Hepatitis Month will do a lot of good for people worldwide. He also says that the health sector has to make it possible for people to test for the disease without paying a dime. One problem with Nigerians is that they do tests and then they are in a hurry to get treated but doctors can help by advising patients to also relax so that they could also text for hepatitis too because it is related in symptoms to malaria and typhoid.
Currently 290 million people live with viral hepatitis without knowing. What about the treatment? How expensive is it? Could it be a limiting factor in eliminating hepatitis? What happens when you get tested positive but no money to pay for treatment?
WORLD HEPATITIS DAY 2019
Morning Crossfire with Wemimo (@wemimospot) & Sheriff (@SheriffQuadry)
Resource Person: Dr Tuyi Mebawondu, Public Health Consultant
Written by Jude Chukwuemeka