TANZANIANS have been urged to turn up for early screening of Hepatitis B as indications show the disease is on the increase.
Kagera Regional Health Officer Mr Nelson Rumbeli said that many people are unaware of the disease and report to health facilities when it is in advanced stage, adding that the government had already provided vaccines to address the problem.
“Hepatitis B infection is a disease of global significance affecting many people. Chronic Hepatitis B (CHB) infection which embraces a large spectrum of the disease remains to be a serious public health problem globally with over 240 million people being affected, resulting in approximately 650,000 deaths annually,” he said.
Mr Rumbeli said the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause acute and chronic liver infections. It is transmitted through infected blood products, unprotected sex, infected items such as needles, razor blades, dental or medical equipment, unscreened blood transfusions, or from mother-to-child at birth.
In many cases, the infection is asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms. Those with symptoms usually get ill 30 days to 6 months after exposure to the virus.
Symptoms include fatigue, malaise, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice. The illness can last several weeks and some adults can become chronic carriers after being infected.
Hepatitis B can cause chronic liver infections, cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, he said. Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world with high prevalence in most of sub-Saharan Africa countries.
The complexity in its diagnosis and treatment poses a significant management challenge in the resource-limited settings including Tanzania, where most of the tests and drugs are either unavailable or un-affordable.
Most infections are asymptomatic in children under five years of age but they can become chronic carriers. Many countries are now including vaccination against Hepatitis B in their childhood vaccination schedules.
Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms. Some cases of chronic Hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral drug. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids, including sex with an infected partner, injection-drug use that involves sharing needles, syringes, or drug-preparation equipment and needle sticks or exposures to sharp instruments.
Worldwide, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that in 2015, at least 257 million people were living with chronic hepatitis B infection (defined as hepatitis B surface antigen positive).
In 2015, hepatitis B resulted in an estimated 887, 000 deaths, mostly from cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
As of 2016, 27 million people, which was 10.5 per cent of all people estimated to be living with hepatitis B were aware of their infection, while 4.5 million, which was 16.7 per cent of the people diagnosed were on treatment.
According to latest WHO estimates, the proportion of children under five years of age chronically infected with HBV dropped to just under 1per cent in 2019 down from around 5 per cent in the pre-vaccine era ranging from the 1980s to the early 2000s.
Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.