The Ministry of Health Paediatric HIV Advisor Dr. Khozya Zyambo says the government has taken tremendous strides aimed at addressing fundamental barriers to viral Hepatitis in Zambia by putting in place multi-faceted decentralised and integrated health care programmes.
Hepatitis B is a potentially life threatening liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus which can cause chronic infection that puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Dr. Zyambo explained that under the extended programme for immunization, there have been discussions around the need to introduce a birth dose for infants in order to hold the transmission of viral Hepatitis.
Research has shown that although Zambia has already met several 2020 Hepatitis elimination targets which include a 90 percent coverage of three (3) dose vaccines for infants, 95 percent of blood donations, and 50 percent injections safety, several barriers still existed to achieve the 2020 Hepatitis elimination target.
“We do have children that are infected with Hepatitis B, we don’t normally test a lot of children when they are born but we do test pregnant mothers during antenatal and we are able to tell which mother has Hepatitis B, and so, most of the time when a mother has Hepatitis B we follow them when they deliver, we have to make sure that the baby that is delivered is not in danger and is protected from acquiring the infection from the mother,” he said
Dr. Zyambo added that the newly born babies are vaccinated according to the immunization schedule , under the expectant programme for immunization there has been discussions to have a birth dose, this needs resource mobilization and bringing on board partners that will lead to the introduction of a birth dose in the country.
On 28th July every year, the world commemorates World Hepatitis Day, and this year’s theme, “Bringing Hepatitis Care Closer To You”, aimed at raising 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.
The date 28th July, was chosen because it is the birthday of Nobel-prize winning scientist Dr. Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hepatitis B virus (HBV) and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus.
Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus (HBV), which is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluids from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.
Hepatitis B is a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes and high blood pressure) that can be successfully managed if one takes very good care of their health and liver, they can live for a long time.
Hepatitis B is described as a silent killer because it is asymptomatic, and one may have the virus but not know about it, because it only manifests itself much later.
Chronic Hepatitis B can develop into a serious disease resulting in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death. There were 1,649 deaths related to Hepatitis B virus reported to CDC in 2018, which was seen as underestimate.
Hepatitis B is said to have no cure, as it only has a preventable vaccine and it usually goes away by itself in 4 to 8 weeks, and more than 9 out of 10 adults who get Hepatitis B totally recover. However, about 1 in 20 people who get Hepatitis B as adults become “carriers,” which means they have a chronic (long-lasting) Hepatitis B infection, as carriers are more likely to pass Hepatitis B to other people, because it becomes contagious, which means that they can spread Hepatitis B to others for the rest of their lives.
And most babies who get Hepatitis B during birth develop chronic infection, unless they get treated right away, as treatments are almost always effective if the baby gets it quickly, that’s why pregnant mothers are encouraged to test for Hepatitis B to avoid infecting the baby once detected to have Hepatitis B.
One surprising thing is that health workers are not prioritized for the vaccine against HeB. So the fight is quite difficult to archive it’s objective.
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