Viral hepatitis – a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E – affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.4 million people every year, mostly from hepatitis B and C. It is estimated that only 5% of people with chronic hepatitis know of their infection, and less than 1% have access to treatment.
Know hepatitis – Are you at risk?
Viral hepatitis affects 400 million people globally and, given the size of the epidemic, anyone and everyone can be at risk. It is estimated that in Nigeria, 20 million people are infected while 2 million people die of the consequence.
Know hepatitis – Get tested
An estimated 95% of people with hepatitis are unaware of their infection. Hepatitis tests are complex and can be costly, with poor laboratory capacity in many countries.
Know hepatitis – Demand treatment
Globally, lack of awareness and poor access to hepatitis treatment services mean that most people who need treatment do not receive it.
Over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured of the virus within 3–6 months. Appropriate treatment of hepatitis B and C can prevent the development of the major life-threatening complications of chronic liver disease: cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Let’s look at Hepatitis B
This is about the most common Hepatitis virus amongst us. Studies have shown that 15% – 25% of people with Hepatitis B will die without treatment. So it is important we”
· Get educated
· Get tested
· Join the fight against Hepatitis B
What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is caused by a virus that attacks the liver and causes liver inflammation. The virus spreads through contact with infected blood or bodily fluid, it can be transmitted through:
· Mother to unborn child
· Unprotected sex
· Injection or drug use
What are the symptoms?
· Abdominal pain
However, you may be among the about 30% of people who do not have symptoms when they are infected.
Who is at risk?
· People with multiple sex partners
· Injection and drug users
· Healthcare and public safety workers
· People who live in same household with some who has Hepatitis B
Types of Infection
Acute: Short term, less than 6 months
Chronic: Long term, more than 6 months and it is mostly a life-long condition and requires a long tern treatment to prevent more damage to the liver. Treatment is important because the damage to the liver could cause serious liver problem called cirrhosis.
Cirrhosis of the liver is the destruction of normal liver tissues, harm and scars left behind will prevent blood from flowing through the liver. Cirrhosis certainly sets a stage for liver cancer. Chronic Hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer worldwide.
Screening and Vaccination
Hepatitis B is a preventable disease, the first step in this direction is to undergo screening and when you are found negative, you quickly commence the vaccine which comes in three-course, 0, 1 and 6.
When you turn out non negative to Hepatitis B, the Doctor may order more test to check the state of your liver. It is important you see your Doctor often to check the state of your liver to know if treatment is necessary and to see how well your treatment is working.
Your Doctor may use a variety of test s to check the liver and monitor the amount of virus in your blood. Some of such tests are:
· HBV DNA test: The Doctor may use this to monitor the amount of virus in your blood and also to measure your viral load.
· The ALT: This looks at active liver inflammation.
· Liver Biopsy: This is when the Doctor takes a sample of your liver tissue. This test is used to check the level of damage or liver inflammation.
The Doctor at this point decides what is right for you. If you have high viral load, the Doctor now decides which medication is needed.
High Viral Load
This is a sign of liver damage or you are at risk of liver damage. You may not feel sick but it is important you get treated if the Doctor recommends so. The earlier you treat a disease, the more likely you stay healthy longer. Why there is not cure for chronic Hepatitis B, there are two types of treatment to help:
Antiviral drug: These are to prevent the virus from growing and reproducing in your body.
Interferon: This helps strengthen your body against the virus.
Whether you are taking medication or not, there are things you must do to keep the liver healthy. These include:
Eating right: Eating healthy meals
Rest: Getting enough sleep
Avoid things that may harm your liver such as alcohol, drugs and some herbal medications.
See your Doctor every 6 – 12 months; it is also a part of taking care of yourself. It is only through the Doctor that you can know how the virus is affecting and detect liver cancer.
One of the several things you can do is to learn more about the disease and how to stop the spread of the virus.
This material is a part of publications of Action for Preventive Health Concerns, a Not-For-Profit Social Venture of OHSM