LOVE YOUR LIVER
A major global public health challenge, endemic in many parts of the world, with the highest prevalence in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia, the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infects more than 300 million people worldwide and is a common cause of liver disease and liver cancer. Viral hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death globally, making it a silent killer and responsible for about 1.44 million deaths annually. Often times, many adults infected with the virus recover, but 5 to10 % are unable to clear the virus thus becoming chronically infected.
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver, commonly caused by a viral infection. However, there are other possible causes of hepatitis; autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary result of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol. Autoimmune hepatitis occurs when the body makes antibodies against liver tissue while Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus is found in the blood and body fluids of an infected person and could be spread through unprotected sex with an infected person or sharing sharp objects with infected persons.
In 2015, hepatitis B resulted in 887,000 deaths, mostly from complications and 2,850,000 were recorded to be newly infected in 2017. About two-thirds of patients with acute HBV infection sometimes have a mild illness that usually goes undetected, until the person becomes seriously ill from the virus. While the hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least 7 days, it has an incubation period of up to 75 days and maybe detected within 30 to 60 days after infection which by then could develop into chronic hepatitis B with symptoms comprising, a general sick feeling, diarrhea, aches and pains, high temperature, loss of appetite, lethargy, abdominal pain, jaundice and dark urine.
The 5 types of viral hepatitis include hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis A is always an acute, short-term disease, Hepatitis E is usually acute but can be particularly dangerous in pregnant women. Causes of noninfectious hepatitis include alcohol and some toxins.
In Africa, chronic viral hepatitis affects over 70 million Africans; 60 million with Hepatitis B and 10 million with Hepatitis C. Sadly, the disease affects the most youthful and productive Africans, causing catastrophic financial liability in its treatment.
Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest population in the world; with children and young adults constituting the bulk of these numbers. It is important to note that the commonest cause of liver disease in Nigeria is Hepatitis B and although pregnant women are generally considered at a lower risk for HBV infection, the rate of infected pregnant women as high as 11%, have been reported in southern parts of the country. In 2016, the Federal Government affirmed that over 22.6 million Nigerians lived with Hepatitis, with about 30% unaware of their status.
It is most important that knowledge around the Hepatitis disease and how best to eradicate it is shared by everyone. World Hepatitis Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization and the theme for this year’s World Hepatitis Day is ‘Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis’, highlighting the need for governments around the world to take active steps towards combating the virus.
Coordinating a global response to hepatitis has paved way to finding cure for hepatitis C and treatment and vaccine for hepatitis B. Interestingly, vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982 and the vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer, chronic hepatitis B infection can thus be treated with medications including safe and effective vaccines ensuring millions do not suffer anymore. Because Hepatitis affects everyone, everywhere and much closer than we think, as humans, let us begin to love our livers so we could have healthier and longer lives.
Although, Nigeria has embarked on a journey to finding a cure by registering hepatitis-related cases, adopting universal vaccination, screening all donated blood, implementing policies aimed at prevention of mother to child infections and ensuring that all infants receive the hepatitis B vaccine immediately after birth, preferably within 24 hours, there is still a lot more to be done.
For you to love your liver and be able to live longer, you must know, prevent, test and be sure to treat Hepatitis. While care is aimed at maintaining comfort and adequate nutritional balance, including replacement of fluids lost from vomiting and diarrhea, it is important to encourage prevention through vaccination.