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HEPATITIS B: The silent killer.

Written by Dr Ojum Ekeoma Ogwo.
~The SUN Nigeria. Sunday, September 18, 2016.

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver from any source. Hepatitis commonly results from a virus. We have 5 types of viral hepatitis – viz;

1) Hepatitis A – infective hepatitis.

2) Hepatitis B – serum hepatitis.

3) Hepatitis C – associated with alcoholic liver disease.

4) Hepatitis D – associated with drug addiction.

5) Hepatitis E – occurs mostly in under-developed countries.

Here we are concerned with only Hepatitis B, which is the deadliest.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B or serum hepatitis, is a 42 nanometre DNA virus, also called “Australian antigen, as a surface antigen, designated as (HBsAg). Spread by blood, secretions and sexual inter course.

High risk groups are the 5 Hs- Homosexual, haemophiliac, hospital worker, heroin addict and haemodialysis patients.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?

i) Loss of appetite.

ii) Tiredness.

iii) Diarrhoea and vomiting.

iv) Jaundice (yellow skin or eyes).

Hepatitis B can also lead to;

i) Liver damage (cirrhosis).

ii Cancer of the liver. And,

iii) Death.

- About 1.25 million people in Nigeria, have chronic hepatitis B infection. Each year it is estimated that 200, 000 people, mostly young adults, get infected with hepatitis B virus.

- More than 11,000 peopl are admitted to the hospital the each year because of hepatitis B.

- About 4,000 to 5,000 people die from chronic hepatitis B each year in Nigeria.

How is hepatitis B virus spread?

Hepatitis B virus is spread through contact with the blood and body fluids of an infected person. A person can get infected in several ways such as:

a) During birth, when the virus passes from infected mother to her baby.

b) By having sex with an infected person.

c) By giving injection with un-sterile needles.

d) Transfusion of unscreened blood.

e) By sharing personal items such as razor, tooth-brush, scarification needles, clippers, nail-cutters etc – with an infected person.

How do we prevent hepatitis B virus?

- Improve medical facilities.

- Needles and syringes must be new and sterile

- Use bleach to clean any shared metal instruments or equipments before usage.

- During mass vaccination, no needle must be re-used.

- All blood donors must be screened for hepatitis B virus.

Prevalence & Age incidence of hepatitis

… The prevalence of hepatitis B, in the general population of Africa is high about 5 to 10%, when compared to Europe or America which is 0.1%

… Hepatitis B is also very common in urban slums in Lagos, Abuja, Onitsha, Aba, Port Harcourt and Kano. Especially among the youth, who are also hustlers and are also likely to be on drugs that require instruments to deliver them.

… In 2004, when I joined an NGO from America to give a free medical scheme, in Kubwa. I discovered that majority of the youth presented with yellowish discolouration of the eyes (jaundice). On close examination, I discovered that each of them had injection points on their arms or buttocks. They were drug addicts who were injecting themselves with unsterilized needles.

… Up till today if you visit my hospital with jaundice, and you are a youth, I involuntarily examine your hands and your buttocks for injection marks. Most often than not I will strike gold. The youth must be delivering something to his body with unsterilised instruments.

How do we treat hepatitis B?

1) Absolute bed rest, because the disease is self-limiting.

2) Low protein diet, and more direct glucose and carbohydrate foods. To fight the weakness.

3) Treatment of associated infections with prescribed antibiotics.

4) Enzyme inducers like essential-forte, Reducdyn ete – doctor’s choice.

Who should get Hepatitis B vaccine and when?

Everyone up to18 years of age.

Adults above 18 years who are at risk, these include.

- People with more than one sexual partner.

- Men who have sex with other men (homosexuals)

- Injection users.

- Those with tattoos.

- Health care workers.

- Lab and other workers who might be exposed to infected blood or other body fluids.

- If you are not sure whether you are at risk, please consult your doctor.

What is our take this week?

- If you share any metal instruments razor, scissors etc, even with your siblings, please clean them with bleach(sodium hypochlorite) before usage.

- For parents – if you notice any yellowish discolouration of the eyes or generalised weakness, of your teenage children, especially boys. Examine his hands and buttocks for any injection and scarification marks, and his body for tattoos. Then notify your doctor immediately

- Ask your doctor whether you qualify for hepatitis B vaccination.

- Please be properly guided.

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