-causing acute and chronic disease and killing close to 1.34 million people every year. Hepatitis causes liver diseases and can also kill a person.
World Hepatitis Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with World Health Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Immunisation Week, World Tuberculosis Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Malaria Day and World AIDS Day.
The Hepatitis A virus (HAV) is primarily transmitted from person to person via the fecal-oral route and through contaminated water and food such as shellfish and uncooked vegetables or fruit prepared by infected food handlers.
The virus is present worldwide, but the level of prevalence depends on local sanitary conditions. HAV circulates widely in populations living in areas with poor sanitation infrastructure. In these areas, persons usually acquire the virus during childhood when the illness is asymptomatic (but still infective to others) or mild, and end up developing full immunity. Large outbreaks in these countries are rare. In contrast, a large number of non-immune persons are found in highly industrialised countries where community wide outbreaks can occur when proper food handling or proper hygiene practices are not maintained including in daycare centres, prisons, or mass gatherings.
In many cases, the infection is asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms. Those with symptoms usually get ill 15 to 50 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include malaise, sudden onset of fever, nausea, abdominal pain, and jaundice after a few days. The illness can range from mild to severe lasting from one to two weeks or several months. Severe cases can be fatal especially in older persons. Most infections are asymptomatic in children under six years of age, but infants and children can continue to shed the virus for up to six months after exposure to the virus, spreading the infection to others. Many countries are now including vaccination against Hepatitis A in their childhood vaccination schedules.
Hepatitis B is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world with high prevalence in most of sub-Saharan Africa countries. The complexity in its diagnosis and treatment poses a significant management challenge in the resource-limited settings including Tanzania, where most of the tests and drugs are either unavailable or unaffordable.
The Hepatitis B virus (HBV) can cause acute and chronic liver infections. It is transmitted through infected blood products, unprotected sex, infected items such as needles, razor blades, dental or medical equipment, unscreened blood transfusions, or from mother to child at birth.
The virus is present worldwide, but some populations in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, as well as in indigenous communities are Hepatitis B carriers. Travellers getting tattoos or piercings abroad, using drugs intravenously, sharing needles and razor blades, undergoing dental or medical procedures, or having unprotected sex are at risk.
In many cases, the infection is asymptomatic – persons do not exhibit symptoms. Those with symptoms usually get ill 30 days to 6 months after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include fatigue, malaise, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice. The illness can last several weeks and some adults can become chronic carriers after being infected. Hepatitis B can cause chronic liver infections, cirrhosis of the liver, or liver cancer. Most infections are asymptomatic in children under five years of age but they can become chronic carriers. Many countries are now including vaccination against Hepatitis B in their childhood vaccination schedules. Treatment includes supportive care of symptoms. Some cases of chronic Hepatitis B can be treated with antiviral drugs.