More Attention Needed on Combating Hepatitis in Sierra Leone -Health Minister

Health Minister, Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie

Minister of Health and Sanitation has called for a sustained awareness-raising campaign on viral hepatitis for the public to be aware so that they will not be infected or affected by the disease.

July 28 of every year is commemorated as World Hepatitis Day with the aim of increasing awareness on viral hepatitis and the impact it has worldwide.

“Our hygiene status is critical and vital to help in reducing the spread of the disease. We should continue washing our hands after most things that we do. Hepatitis B is a major public health problem and prevention should be paramount,” Prof. Alpha Tejan Wurie said.

He told a press conference room of the ministry yesterday that even though there are five types of hepatitis, the B and C are the ones that are likely to affect the liver.

He said people may die much earlier from liver cancer as a consequence of hepatitis, and that the infection rate of hepatitis is almost ten times that of HIV.

“Even though there has been no statistics, the prevalence rate of 6% to 21% of hepatitis is huge and the media must help us to let the public know. We will be embarking on a zero prevalence survey as a ministry,” Prof. Wurie noted and disclosed that the advocacy of the disease will be taken to peripheral health units.

Although there has been no national representative data on the disease, Director of Disease Prevention and Control, Dr. Samuel Juana Smith, stated that a substantial burden has been observed in the different sub-populations of the country.

He revealed that the general laboratory and blood bank registry of the Koidu Government Hospital shows that hepatitis B is roughly 10-15% of all diagnosis or blood screened on random request.

“On the Koidu Government medical wards, there are at least 10 cases a month of an end stage liver disease due to hepatitis B virus infection. Children infected during birth or under five years of age are one of the most likely groups to develop a chronic form of the infection in adulthood,” he said.

He said infected mothers often transmit the virus to their babies during pregnancy and delivery and that healthcare workers are at risk of becoming infected when exposed to the blood of hepatitis B patients.

Dr. Smith disclosed that a free screening for hepatitis will be conducted on Saturday July 27, 2019 at Connaught and 34 Military hospitals respectively and urged members of the public to make use of the opportunity to know their status.



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