Health experts advise on what to do to prevent Hepatitis

IF consumed regularly and for a long time, some foods, mostly cassava and groundnuts with aflatoxin, lead to liver damage, a speciality known as Hepatitis.

Some publications define aflatoxins as a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops like maize, groundnuts, cottonseed, tree nuts as well as cassava.

Aflatoxin might attack either a crop plant on farms, or final harvests, especially due to poor storage Before liver attack, aflatoxins on cassava and groundnuts are gradually accumulated in the human body, for about five years or so in adults, before the symptoms appear.

To children, liver damage resulting from aflatoxins takes few months, sometimes within a year, with many more negatives to them, including stunting.

Aflatoxin to liver has similar impacts of alcohol overconsumption at the highest level, said an expert at the Internal Medicine Department of Bugando Zonal Referral Hospital, Dr Dickson Phillemon, during the recent ‘Afya Day’ celebrations in Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), Mwanza Campus.

The hospital offered free health tests and counselling services for Campus members and the surrounding community, to support the celebrations.

To prevent the transmissions, people should avoid contacts with any fluids coming out from a person with Hepatitis symptoms. It is because fluids like saliva, blood, sweating and tears, to mention a few, are the main source of rapid Hepatitis transmissions.

He advised members of the community to go for hepatitis tests and vaccination to those with negative testing results, affirming that Hepatitis has no direct cure.

Despite the presence of A, B, C, D and E types of Hepatitis, the vaccine is only for type B, which represents the rest. The complete vaccine dose is in three phases, with the first one being injected soon after the test, second after four weeks and the last after six months.

The complete Hepatitis vaccine lasts 10 years in a human body, then after, one should have the booster to activate it, for life, he said, adding that some Hepatitis signs are stomach ache, especially on the right side where the Liver is located, eyes and skin yellowish, specialty known as ‘jaundice’, nausea and vomiting, weight loss as well as muscle pains.

The Statement issued by Ministry of Health during commemoration of Hepatitis World Day on July last year, explained more on Hepatitis type A and E, saying that the viruses are orally transmitted as well as through consumption of unsafe water and foods, which are contaminated by stool with virus infections, (faecal-oral transmission).

The signs for type A and E are similar to those of diarrhoea diseases while type B, C and D viruses are passing on in the same way of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/ AIDS, like infected blood transfusion and sharp objects sharing.

The mother can also pass on the viruses to a newborn during the delivery process. Hepatitis B is a leading infection in the country. World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics through the 2021 Hepatitis report, showed that 296 people in the World were infected by chronic Hepatitis B in 2019, wherein 66 per cent of infections were from the African continent.

WHO report revealed further that there were 58 million people with Hepatitis C chronic infections as well as 820, 000 Hepatitis B deaths, worldwide.

In Tanzania, according to Ministry’ statement, the National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS) report showed that there were 4. 4 per cent in 2018 Hepatitis B transmissions among blood donors, 5.9 per cent (2019), 6.1 per cent (2020) and 5.3 per cent (2021) while Hepatitis C transmissions remained 2.3 per cent in such a-three year period.

Nutrition and mental health services were also part of the free services at DIT, with Dr Hijar Kimaro from Bugando Hospital urging members of the community to immediately consult the experts when abnormal feelings, like suicidal ideation, approach them.

The same applied to those who suffer from depression. A victim might not be aware of the situation, but friends and relatives do notice abnormalities.

“They should help the victim, especially the psychologists, “ she said.

Some people who showed up for free tests at DIT, including Mr Idisa Makoye, commented on the commemorations but called for expansion of both communicable and non- communicable diseases services, in next ‘Afya Day’ commemorations.

“I’m personally in need of eye services, but they are not offered here,” he said.

Ilemela District Administrative Secretary (DAS), Mr Said Kitinga, supplemented the call, urging the Campus to also consider the presence of blood donation services in next celebrations. He said that the hospitals were in high need of blood services, to serve various groups of Tanzanians, especially expectant mothers and children, as well as road accident victims.

“However, I commend you since free health tests have attracted a number of residents from outside the Campus,” he said.

The DIT Mwanza Campus Human Resources Manager, Ms Alice Mwasyoge, said that celebrating ‘Afya Day’ is the institute’s routine, at least twice a year, in a bid to build health testing culture among Tanzanians, so as to enable the county to have healthy people all the time.

Again, she added, the counselling services are of importance to help the campus’ students attain their academic goals with no especially psychological challenges. It is because most of the Campus’ students are Form Four leavers, with a tender age, who might fall in affairs with no precautions to avoid especially sexually transmitted diseases, mostly HIV/ AIDS as well as unexpected pregnancies that might lead to studies termination.

Some might also face depression as results of relationship break ups, but with no knowledge to overcome such a serious psychological challenge.

“It totality, the students are still in need of close supervision to help them meet their life dreams. Physical exercises are also important to make their brain smart all the time.

“This is why ‘Afya Day’ is featured by various sport activities, involving some fellows from the colleges of Business Education and Institute of Finance Management,” said she.

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