The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has launched this year’s World Hepatitis Day with a call on infected persons to stick to only prescribed medications during treatment processes.
“The truth is, not everybody requires to be treated depending on the stage of infection. For instance, for Hepatitis B, only about 10 to 25 percent of patients require treatment so there is no need to subject yourself to herbal drugs and other unprescribed drugs which might damage your liver, ”the Programme Manager of the National Viral Hepatitis Programme, Dr Atsu Godwin Seake-Kwaku, said.
About 60 to 80 percent of liver cancer cases globally could be linked to viral Hepatitis.
In Ghana, an estimated 1.5million new infections of Hepatitis B and C are recorded annually.
Data from the GHS indicates that prevalence of Hepatitis B is about 12.3 percent of the population, with Hepatitis C around 3.3 percent as of 2019.
About 820,000 deaths from Hepatitis B and 299,000 from Hepatitis C are recorded in the country each year.
Dr Seake-Kwaku, in a presentation at the launch, said the condition was fast rising in the country which called for strengthened interventions to reduce the surge.
A major gap in the fight against Hepatitis, he noted, was the absence of the birth dose for newborns within 24 hours of delivery, which exposed a high number of citizens to the infection later in life.
Other factors, including unsafe sex and unsafe injection, blood and surgical procedures, he mentioned, exposed persons to the infection.
The Programme Manager observed that low awareness on the condition, low screening and testing, under-reporting, high cost of medical treatment, myths and misconception on viral hepatitis was also a challenge.
He said the Service together with government and its agencies was working at addressing gaps in the fight against Hepatitis, including ensuring that viral hepatitis medicines were included in the emergency medicine list on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
“We are putting in all efforts to ensure we get the birth dose as soon as possible to close the gaps of zero to six weeks not being vaccinated against the virus,” he added.
Dr Seake-Kwaku called on corporate institutions and development partners to support the fight against viral hepatitis to achieve the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s goal of elimination by 2030.
The Director of Public Health, GHS, Dr Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, said the Service was embarking on a project to ascertain the number of pregnant women with the condition to effectively vaccinate them upon delivery.
This, he said, was part of measures to bring hepatitis care closer to primary health facilities and communities for improved access to treatment and care.
Observed on July 28 every year, WHD seeks to highlight the need to accelerate the fight against viral hepatitis to influence real change.
This year’s commemoration is on the theme “Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer to Communities- Hep Can’t Wait”, which aims to raise awareness about the need to simplify and bring hepatitis care to primary health facilities, community-based venues and locations beyond hospital sites, so that care is closer to communities and people wherever they are.
Hepatitis is an inflammatory condition of the liver and is commonly as a result of a viral infection.
There are five main types of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E.
BY ABIGAIL ANNOH