Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and is caused through infection by germs called viruses, as well as non-germ agents like drug abuse or overdose, alcohol, herbs etc.
The five types of hepatitis virus include A,B,C,D and E, but in particular B and C lead to chronic disease and are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and viral hepatitis-related diseases, which could lead to death.
Because 354 million people worldwide, largely in Africa and Nigeria, live with hepatitis B and C, there is the need therefore to improve knowledge on the disease, to provide skills and deliver service, protect self, loved ones as well as the community, especially in the FCT.
Hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days and during this time can cause infection if it enters the body of anyone not protected by the vaccine, and incubation period ranges from 30 to 180 days.
Most people do not experience any symptoms when newly infected, however some have acute illness with symptoms like yellowness of the skin and eyes (jaundice), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.
There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B but can be prevented by vaccination, but hepatitis C, which is similar to hepatitis B, has no effective vaccine so prevention depends on reducing risk of exposure to the virus.
High risk persons are people who inject drugs, gays, particularly those infected with HIV. A laboratory confirmation of the diagnosis is essential via blood test.
Hepatitis, has alarmingly become increasingly threatening to health workers who stand the risk of getting infected because the delivery of health care has the potential to transmit hepatitis B and C virus to both health-care workers and patients.
Hepatitis infection of health workers have occurred in outpatient settings, in PHCs and hospitals, primarily as a result of unsafe practices and other lapses in infection control. To prevent hepatitis, health-care providers should therefore adhere to recommended standard precautions
This necessitated the recent training of PHC workers and communities on hepatitis elimination across the six area councils of the FCT.
For continued protection, we all, including health-care providers and public-safety workers should urgently know our status, whether to receive vaccination, which are free, safe, available and effective, and/or get treated.
Dr Isah Yahaya Vatsa is Ag. Executive Secretary, FCT Primary Health Care Board.