Hepatitis is a term used to describe the inflammation of the liver as a result of viral infection or exposure to harmful or toxic substances such as drugs or alcohol. While some types of hepatitis will pass without causing permanent damage to the liver, chronic cases can cause cirrhosis, liver failure or cancer.
Around 400 million people worldwide are living with hepatitis B or C, which together cause approximately 80% of all liver cancer deaths and kill nearly 1.4 million people every year. Yet with better awareness and understanding of hepatitis prevention, up to 4,000 lives can be saved every day.
There are four main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C and E, which pose the greatest risk.
Also known as HAV, hepatitis A is most commonly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. While the majority of infections in cases are mild and the patient is able to make a full recovery, some can be life threatening in areas with poor sanitation. Improved sanitation and the Hepatitis A vaccine are the most effective ways to combat the disease.
The hepatitis B virus (HBV) is transmitted through exposure to infective blood, semen and other body fluids. In some rare cases, it can be transmitted from infected mothers to infants during birth. HBV can also be spread through contaminated blood transfusions and medical procedures, as well as injection drug use. Hepatitis B is an important occupational hazard for health workers. However, it can be prevented by currently available safe and effective vaccine.
The most common type of hepatitis, HCV is most commonly transmitted through exposure to infective blood though injection drug use. Sexual transmission is also possible, although this is less common. As of yet, there is no vaccine for HCV.
Hepatitis E virus is mostly transmitted through consumption of contaminated water or food. It is most commonly transmitted in developing countries and is spread by putting something in the mouth that is contaminated with the faeces of someone with hepatitis E.
Nigeria has about 23 million people suffering from hepatitis B making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest infection in the world and yet Hepatitis can be prevented through several ways like staying clean, get vaccinated, avoiding blood contact with an infected person. Good personal habits will help reduce the spread of hepatitis A and E. If you are in a place where you are unsure of hygiene, make sure to you boil your water, cook all food well and peel all fruits and if you are a health worker or a care giver for someone who has a contagious form of hepatitis, take extra steps to clean, wash your hands, utensils, bedding and clothes with soap and hot water.
This #WorldHepatitisDay, the WHO has called on every country for urgent action to curb hepatitis. Of the four types of hepatitis, this year WHO is mainly focusing on Hepatitis B and C. As WHO’s statement indicates, each year approximately 2 million people get the hepatitis virus from unsafe injections. Thus, it is claimed that single-use syringes will prevent any hepatitis infection.
With adequate awareness, care, improved sanitary sanitation and access to diagnosis and treatment, Hepatitis can be prevented and cured.