Dr Yaw Asante Awuku of the Department of Internal Medicine and Therapeutics of the University of Cape Coast school of Medical Sciences (UCCSMC) on Tuesday advocated the inclusion of the screening and treatment of all the types of viral Hepatitis in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
He said because the diagnosis and medicines for the treatment of Hepatitis, especially Hepatitis B, was very expensive and only few people could access treatment, it was imperative for the government to come up with policy guidelines to help with the treatment of the disease.
Dr Awuku said this during a public lecture on Hepatitis, organized by the UCCSMS to commemorate the celebration of world Hepatitis day.
The lecture, first of its kind to be organized by the school, was under the theme “Prevent Hepatitis: It is Up to you” and was attended by medical doctors, student nurses, students from second cycle institutions and the Pro-vice Chancellor of the UCC, Professor Paul Nelson Buah.
Dr Awuku, who spoke on the topic “The known knowns of Viral Hepatitis“ described Hepatitis as a serious disease, which has been ignored over the years but remained a silent killer.
He said it was important to create the necessary awareness on the disease and also provide extensive screening for all the five types of Hepatitis (A,B,C,D and E), noting that, this would help in knowing the right number of people, who are actually infected with the disease.
Dr Awuku pointed out that, 400 million people are infected worldwide with Hepatitis B, with 4,000 deaths a day, adding that, Hepatitis B causes 80 per cent of liver cancer deaths.
He said the prevention of Hepatitis B was up to the individual, and that, if people know how Hepatitis is transmitted it would help reduce the risk, and mentioned the sharing of toothbrushes and razors, unscreened blood transfusion, unsafe injections, unprotected sex and mother to child, as some of the sources of infection of Hepatitis B.
He said unsafe injections accounted for 33 per cent of new Hepatitis B infections and that 8 billion injections a year are given unnecessarily, noting that, 70 per cent of injected medication could be administered orally.
Dr Awuku further stated that unsafe injections also accounted for 42 per cent of new Hepatitis C infections, adding that, globally 40 per cent of injections are still being given with re-used injecting equipment .
He advocated that screening facilities should be provided at all district health facilities to enable more people to check on their Hepatitis status.
Dr Oheneba Hagan of the Department of Medical Biochemistry of UCC SMS, who spoke on the “challenges in the care of the Hepatitis B infection in Ghana”, lamented that, due to the high cost of drugs for the treatment of the disease, some patients rather resort to the use of herbal concoctions, which end up worsening their condition or giving them false hopes.
He said many laboratories in the country were inadequately resourced to handle the diagnosis of the disease, adding that, currently liver biopsy was not done in any hospital in the country, and that, most laboratory test results lacked standardization.
Dr Hagan also noted that, the lack of specialized Hepatitis B clinics in the country was a bane to the prevention and treatment of the disease and suggested that extensive research should be conducted on how to prevent mother to child infections.
Professor Amonoo Kwofie, Provost of the UCCSMS, who presided, called on stakeholders, policy makers and individuals to join in the campaign to prevent Hepatitis B infections.
He also asked all to endeavour to practice good personal hygiene, including hand washing and keeping their surroundings clean, to avert the infection of Hepatitis A and E, which are mostly caused by fecal matter and poor sanitary conditions.
Viral Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by infectious and non-infectious agents and substance such as viruses, bacteria, toxins, drugs and alcohol. GNA