In the battle against this pandemic, a few people recover, some in critical condition while others pass on. Truly! Individuals with underlying health conditions are biting the dust, be that as it may, have we contemplated what happens to individuals with hidden health issues, for example, hepatitis and are unaware?
Across the world, 290 million people are living with viral hepatitis unaware. Only 10% of people living with hepatitis B and 19% living with hepatitis C know their hepatitis status. (WHO,2020)
Researchers and public health officials are trying to find out, among other things, the transmission rate, risk factors and who is most likely to become seriously ill. Though much stays obscure, it’s clear that people with hidden health conditions and those with compromised immune systems have a higher likelihood of severe illness. This may include people with a liver disease such as hepatitis.
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. The five (5) most common viral hepatitis are A, B, C, D, and E. Recently, the hepatitis G virus was identified. Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated food, water, poor hygiene and close contact with carriers of the virus. Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through blood, sexual intercourse, bodily fluids, kissing, sharing syringes and blades, and touching wounds of infected persons. Hepatitis G being the newly discovered viral hepatitis’ route of transmission is no different from that of B, C and D.
Studies have found that, hepatitis A and E are acute; lasts for a short time – less than six(6) months and hepatitis B, C, D and G may progress to chronicity; more than six(6) months.
Hepatitis B and C are currently the most common viral hepatitis in Ghana with 78% and 5-10% prevalence respectively. Symptoms of viral hepatitis starts from absence of symptoms (asymptotic) to mild or moderate features such as jaundice-; yellowish discoloration of the skin and eyes, poor appetite, malaise and progressing to a chronic liver failure .
The burden of the disease as dictated by a high prevalence rate, calls for an open mediation. This is substantiated by the fact that, more than half of patients with COVID-19 showed varying levels of liver disease. This is partly due to the relatively weak immune system of hepatitis patients for which reason they are rendered powerless in the face of the COVID-19. That notwithstanding, it’s a common place to find a hepatitis patient especially hepatitis C positive person with an attending heart problem
All hepatitis positive persons are at risk of adverse outcomes from the virus (COVID-19). Don’t panic! The best thing you can do is to focus on ways that you can protect yourself because those small things can be enough to provide an extra layer of protection for you. All ill hepatitis patients should attempt to adhere to strict social distancing measures as much as they can to minimize their chance of exposure to COVID-19. Let’s all practice good handwashing with soap and water, good sanitation, personal hygiene, and good safe food hygiene as dictated by the COVID-19 measures.
To those who do not know their status, hold on! Don’t be grateful yet!
Get tested to know your status. Be vaccinated against hepatitis A, B and E. Although there is no vaccine for C and G, a vaccine against A and B provide immunity for C. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost especially in this COVID-19 period. Once again, get tested to know your stand so that when you come into contact with the virus, you can cautiously take care of yourself.