Hepatitis now becoming common in Kenya

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection and can be fatal. There are five main types of hepatitis viruses – type A, B, C, D and E but the most prevalent in Kenya are A, B and C.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection and can be fatal. There are five main types of hepatitis viruses – type A, B, C, D and E but the most prevalent in Kenya are A, B and C.

15 percent of commercial sex workers in Majengo slums in Nairobi who were tested for HIV were found to suffering from hepatitis B.

The National Blood Transfusion Service says in its recent report that the detection of HIV/Aids has declined in donated blood due to better awareness among blood donors and decreasing infection rates in Kenya.

Over the years, Kenya has seen a downward trend in the prevalence of HIV/Aids and syphilis among blood donors. However, the concerned now is an upward trend in hepatitis A, B and C.

This was also confirmed in the recent report by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). Rapid rise in hepatitis diseases prevalence is giving the medical community sleepless nights,” says Dr. Mahesh Shah, a gastroenterologist and herpetologist at the Aga Khan Hospital.

It has also been revealed that hepatitis diseases are posing a serious threat to the national blood bank and to the healthcare workers in medical institutions.

For the past two decades it was HIV/Aids that posed a threat to blood donated to hospitals. And, now it is hepatitis that poses the threat to blood donated for use in hospitals.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection and can be fatal. There are five  main types of hepatitis viruses – type A, B, C, D and E but the most prevalent in Kenya are A, B and C.

Symptoms include, jaundice, (yellowing of the skin an eyes), dark urine extreme, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Ingesting contaminated food or water typically causes hepatitis A and E while B, C and D usually occur due to contact with infected body fluids. Hepatitis B is also transmitted through sexual contact, saliva and other mucus from the infected persons.

Research done by KEMRI reveals the areas worst hit by hepatitis are Turkana, Marsabit and other parts of Northern Kenya with rates reaching up to 20 per cent while Central Kenya has the lowest rate of three per cent.

Other information available, especially from the Blood Link Foundation, says an effective hepatitis management and approach is needed to curb the rise and the spread of the diseases. This can be achieved through immunization.

“Hepatitis B vaccine was incorporated in the National Childhood Immunization Programme in 2001, meaning those born before then are not protected and are therefore requiring screening and treatment with strong antibiotics if found to be infected” says Dr. Shah.

Experts say it is important to screen food handlers, commercial sex workers, healthcare workers and school children who are above nine years against hepatitis B with a view to treating the sick and vaccinating the healthy to prevent new infections. Vaccinations against hepatitis A should also be undertaken to prevent and control its spread.

Until there is reduction in the number of hepatitis cases through various interventions is when blood donated will be useful for those who need blood in our hospitals. People should also not fear or be afraid of donating blood since it also helps them know their health status.

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