BETTER HEALTH

World marks Hepatitis day: Here is what you should know

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a group of viruses.

In Summary

•The virus spreads through the digestive system and can also be transmitted through anal sex.

•There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E.

Lab technician sorts and barcodes samples at KEMRI headquarters.
NEW DISEASE: Lab technician sorts and barcodes samples at KEMRI headquarters.
Image: MERCY MUMO

Today marks World Hepatitis day with this year’s theme being ‘I can’t wait’.

However, very little is known about the disease.

The disease is disproportionately distributed within counties and populations in the country.

According to the Ministry of Health, due to a lack of awareness and stigma, people do not consider the importance of testing for hepatitis.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by a group of viruses.

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E.

The Kenya Population-based HIV Impact Assessment 2018 estimates the prevalence of Hepatitis B at 3 per cent among the general population and 4.7 per cent among the people living with HIV.

Hepatitis C in Kenya is more prevalent among the people who inject drugs at an estimated 12- 15.6 per cent.

Hepatitis explained

While they all cause liver disease, they differ in important ways including modes of transmission, the severity of the illness, geographical distribution, and prevention methods.

The symptoms usually show up 2 to 6 weeks after the virus enters your body.

It is important to note that all types of hepatitis are treatable but only A and C are curable.

According to the World Health Organisation, Hepatitis A is an infection that can cause mild to severe illness and it is mostly transmitted through ingestion of contaminated food and water or through direct contact with an infectious person.

The virus spreads through the digestive system and can also be transmitted through anal sex.

Hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and early childhood and can be prevented through vaccination.

However, hepatitis B can also be spread by: needlestick injury, tattooing, piercing,g or exposure to infected blood and body fluids.

2021 data from WHO shows that Kenya’s prevalence of hepatitis is low at 1.7 per cent.

Hepatitis C is a virus that can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), timely testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C can save lives.