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Hepatitis B is a deadly virus, get vaccinated to be safe

<p><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/hepatitis%20B%20Dr%20Opio%20body%20image.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px; font-family: helvetica;"/> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong>Caption: </strong><em>Dr Christopher Opio, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Aga Khan University Hospital conducts an endoscopy procedure on a patient with a team of clinicians.</em>
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">This week the world marked the World Hepatitis Day under the theme: “Hepatitis Can&#39;t Wait&quot;. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our lives and especially the delivery of healthcare services across the world. However, other diseases still need attention and that is why all stakeholders must join efforts against hepatitis. In this article, I will share some basic facts about hepatitis B and how we can stay safe.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What kind of disease is hepatitis B?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver, causing liver cell damage, scarring and liver cancer. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) is one of five types of viral hepatitis. Others are hepatitis A, C, D, and E and each differs from the others.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong>What causes hepatitis B?</strong></span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Hepatitis B is caused by type B hepatitis virus</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How common is hepatitis B?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">HBV is a major global health problem. In Africa about 1-2 people out of 20 have Hepatitis B.     </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How is HBV Transmitted?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Hepatitis B is found in the blood and or blood serum. Worldwide, mother to child transmission after birth (during perinatal period) is the most common route of transmission.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">It can also be spread through unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person. Other causes are exposures to sharp instruments, or through sharing of needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment used by an infected person.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Hepatitis B is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Like HIV virus, most patients do not know they have Hepatitis B until it is too late. Those who develop symptoms early in the disease may present with jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes), flu-like illness, dark urine, joint pains, fatigue, and rare sometimes liver failure. Late in the disease, patients may develop fluid in their belly, loss of appetite and weight, vomiting blood, failure to pass urine, experiencing confusion, cirrhosis and liver cancer.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What is the adverse form of this disease if it is left untreated?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Liver failure, cancer and scarring, water in the belly, vomiting blood, kidney and brain failure and malnutrition. </span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How is HBV diagnosed?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Many people don&#39;t have symptoms and it is therefore important that healthy people screen for hepatitis B regularly. Clinicians use blood tests to diagnose hepatitis B infection.  There are a number of hepatitis B tests that help determine:
</span></p><ul><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Whether one has hepatitis B</span></li><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Whether it is chronic or acute hepatitis B;</span></li><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Whether one is immune to hepatitis B after vaccination; or</span></li><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">If one was infected in the past, have cleared the virus from your body, and are protected from future infection.</span></li><li><span style="font-family: helvetica;">How likely it is that someone who is infected with hepatitis B will transmit it to others.</span></li></ul><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">It is also important to highlight that there is a risk of misdiagnosis if you only use symptoms to diagnose the disease. It is therefore critical that the right tests are carried out.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What are the treatment options available for hepatitis B?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Hepatitis B is a chronic disease and is difficult to clear. However, it can be controlled through use of oral medications that are usually administered to a patient for life.  The treatment aims at controlling the virus with the hope of preventing liver scarring, liver failure, and liver cancer. It is also important to note that liver cancer can be cured if detected early. Unfortunately, many patients present late when little can be done for them.   In sub-Saharan Africa, hepatitis B is the main cause of liver cancer (7 patients out of 10). Most patients who are diagnosed with liver cancer die within a year.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How can a person diagnosed with hepatitis B live with it?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">For coping with HBV, it is advisable for a patient to learn about hepatitis B. Staying connected with family and friends is important for a person&#39;s mental health since HBV cannot be spread through casual contact. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and get enough sleep.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">It is important to avoid drinking alcohol and taking over-the-counter medication without consulting the doctor. A patient should also be tested for hepatitis A and C and be vaccinated for hepatitis A.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Can hepatitis B be prevented?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Yes. The best way to prevent hepatitis B is by getting vaccinated. The hepatitis B vaccine is safe and very effective. Vaccines are generally given in 2–3 initial doses a month apart followed by a booster dose at six months or later. Completing the series of shots is needed to be fully protected.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">For all children born to mothers who have hepatitis B, a vaccine given at birth is recommended</span></p><p><em style="font-family: helvetica;">By Dr Christopher Opio, Consultant Gastroenterologis, Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.</em></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><em>This article was first published by The Business Daily Africa Newspaper</em>

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