•Experts regret lack of awareness, as Nigeria marks World Day of Hepatitis today
By Olajumoke Dorcas Ayobami
Every July 28, humanity marks the World Day of Hepatitis. It is a day set aside to bring the world together under a single theme to raise awareness about the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change, according to the World Health organisation (WHO).
Indeed, people, from generation to generation, have often been confronted by one deadly disease or the other, some of which are without cure. They are deadly and have continued to be man’s nemesis, defying the collective efforts of humanity even when there is sufficient awareness about them.
Diseases such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, tuberculosis, and sickle cell anaemia are some of the world’s known biggest challenges. Cancer and malaria are also some of the most formidable health challenges. There have been several efforts, including awareness programmes, mounted over time by activists and medical professionals to fight the afflications.
But the question now is, how come there is more awareness about the human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) when there is a virus like hepatitis believed to be more venomous to the human body?
To mark this day, Daily Sun spoke a health professional, Dr. Olanrewaju Samuel Badanki, for awareness on this killer ailment. The expert, who is the managing director of Longe Private Hospital in Lagos, said that hepatitis was more fatal than AIDS because it kills faster and it takes a smaller amount of blood to transmit the hepatitis B virus that has the ability to withstand extreme variations in temperature.
“When the virus enters the cells of the liver, it triggers an immune response resulting in inflammation, and in most cases the body’s immune system is unable to fight back the virus, leading to liver failure. This oftentimes develops to liver cancer, which is terminal, except a liver transplant is done,” he said.
The doctor explained that hepatitis is the inflammation of a tissue, which could lead to either acute or chronic hepatitis, depending on how long it lasts.
“There are five main types of this ailment: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. These vary based on their mode of transmission and deadliness.
“Hepatitis A and E can be contracted through contaminated food and water, hepatitis B and C occur through infected blood and unprotected sex, while hepatitis D can only infect people already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis A patients can survive it because it rarely leads to a chronic state, while hepatitis B patients can hardly survive it. They can still be carriers. Hepatitis C is one of the deadliest; it leads to liver failure. That explains why blood screening for hepatitis B and C is necessary.”
Bandaki noted that types A, B and E can be prevented with immunisation and a healthy lifestyle also plays a role.
“When a patient contacts a virus, passive immunisation would be given when there is a high risk of infection and the body cannot develop its own immune response to fight against the virus. The active immunisation is generated by the body on its own to fight viruses,” he explained.
He regretted that the awareness of hepatitis was not enough and people do not know how they could contract it, even as he regretted that only a few people could protect themselves from it. He said he realised that even when a few people came down with jaundice, a yellowish or greenish pigmentation of the skin and whites of the eyes, they just assumed it was fever or the flu until blood tests were carried out.
Bandaki expressed gladness that government recommended that all mothers should get tested for hepatitis B. He noted that the virus is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. He also explained that an infected mother can get shots for her baby to help prevent the virus. In his experience, hepatitis has proven to be more fatal than AIDS because it kills faster.
Explaining some of the signs and symptoms of the disease, Badanki said: “The patient often comes down with fever, headache, loss of appetite, upper abdominal pain, yellowish eyes and skin. Most people with chronic hepatitis B have no symptoms and so people are advised to go for blood test to detect all these viruses, which may be hiding in the body.”
Patients are usually placed on bed rest with glucose, drip, while the liver is also given some rest as patients are prevented from eating proteins. He explained that the liver does the work of detoxifying protein foods, turning them to urea.
When the virus is detected, anti-virus drugs, such as Lamivudine, are used to treat patients eventually.
The doctor urged the public to get immunised, make use of only sterilised, sharp objects and avoid the several mode of transmission of this virus, especially having protected sexual intercourse.
He also mentioned that there were people with chronic hepatitis in the society doing very well while most are bed-ridden at the acute stages.