Sexually Transmitted Hepatitis plagues Kumi and Ngora

Juma Opolot of Nyero subcounty in Kumi district, would like to let the health authorities know that Hepatitis B is a serious and growing concern in this area of the country. Edwin Opolot also reports that the same disease is becoming a serious health concern in Ngora, a district that neighbours Kumi. Hepatis B is a liver disease that whose symptoms include yellowing of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fever, extreme tiredness, stomach or joint pain. Sufferers may feel very ill and be unable to work for weeks or even months. Others however show on symptoms and can therefore unknowingly infect others.

Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted strain of Hepatitis, a liver disease. Like HIV, the disease that is spread through exchange of blood and semen with an infected person. The hepatitis B virus is however 50-100 times more infectious than HIV. A hepatitis B prevalence study was nested in the 2005 national HIV/AIDS serobehavioural survey. 5875 people were tested. The study found that Hepatitis B virus infection is highly endemic in Uganda, with transmission occurring in childhood and adulthood. More than 1.4 million adults are chronically infected and some communities disproportionately affected. Prevalence was significantly higher across northern Uganda, in rural areas, among the poor and least educated, and in uncircumcised men.

A vaccine for Hepatitis B exists but as Edwin Opolot explains, it is in limited supply and too expensive for rural communities. “Most health centres lack drugs, particularly the hepatitis vaccine making it hard for people to survive. But even with the access to the vaccine, it’s still hard because it’s very expensive. It costs 70,000shs,” he says. He reveals that when free public supplies were provided in mid January, only a few community members like teachers received vaccination.

However no deaths have been reported from the disease in this part of country. Many sufferers don’t die may live with lifelong infection but for some it may eventually it may cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer both of which could lead to death.

- Feb. 28, 2014
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