•According to the scorecard, Kenya has an estimated 893,000 chronic carriers of hepatitis in the general population with 28,000 being among children aged below five years.
•The data shows Kenya has a low Hepatitis B prevalence of 1.7 per cent.
Kenya has been listed among 35 countries by the World Health Organization expected to introduce a birth dose vaccine for Hepatitis B in the next three years.
Kenya is yet to introduce the Monovalent Hepatitis B birth dose vaccine given within 24 hours to prevent transmission of the virus from their mothers.
WHO has now called on the government to expedite the introduction of the vaccine which has the capacity to many lives.
Kenya, however, administers the first dose of Pentavalent vaccine at six weeks old with the second and third doses given at 10 and 14 weeks of age respectively in the form of pentavalent vaccines.
Pentavalent vaccine protects a child from Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Hepatitis B and Hib and is already part of routine immunisation.
The latest scorecard estimates that only six per cent of babies in Africa have received the vaccine.
According to the scorecard, Kenya has an estimated 893,000 chronic carriers of hepatitis in the general population with 28,000 being among children aged below five years.
The data shows Kenya has a low Hepatitis B prevalence of 1.7 per cent.
“We, however, know there are pockets of endemic regions in the country having a prevalence of more than 10 per cent in hospital settings, and the prevalence may be as high as 53 per cent among HBV/HIV co-infection patients,” Leonard Otieno from WHO said.
The country carries a high burden of chronic Hepatitis B carriers of over one million people who need care and treatment.
The country's prevalence of Hepatitis C is about 1 per cent among the general population as per the data but disproportionately endemic among persons who inject drugs with a prevalence of 22 per cent in Mombasa and 13 per cent in Nairobi.
WHO warns that transmission of Hepatitis B from mother to child remains high, with a prevalence of 2.5 per cent among children younger than five in the region.
“Only 14 African region countries including Kenya have managed to reduce the number to the one per cent milestone, which has been achieved by all other WHO regions,” Otieno said.
“The main barriers to access care and treatment include that hepatitis services are centralised in cities and major urban areas, being delivered primarily by specialists, along with the high cost of diagnosis and medicines, and an inadequate laboratory platform.”
Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Kenyatta National Hospital Juliana Muiva said the most common hepatitis viruses are A, B and C.
Hepatitis A is largely seen in children and in the majority of children it is asymptomatic with up to 70 per cent of the children showing no symptoms hence a lot of children remain undiagnosed.
Hepatitis B presents throughout life which means it can present from birth to any other age in life.
The transmission is vertical either through Mother-to-Child Transmission (MTCT) or community-acquired either through blood sexual contact or other means.
“The younger the patients with Hepatitis B, the more severe the disease will be. For example, we are anxious about MTCT because we know up to 90 per cent of babies born to hepatitis B positive mothers will acquire the infection in themselves,” Muiva said.
According to the Ministry of Health, Hepatitis is disproportionately distributed among counties and populations.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris