Feature Article of Friday, 12 April 2013
Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Theobald
(SAY NO TO IGNORANCE)
Hepatitis is believed to have existed in some form since ancient times. It is known, for example, that a disease existed that affected the liver and caused yellowing of the skin.
There was a major breakthrough which identified serum Hepatitis and named it Hepatitis B virus. Ten years later another virus was found and named the Hepatitis A virus.
Moreover, scientists knew other viruses existed until 1981 the Hepatitis C virus was isolated. Hepatitis B is the world’s most common serious liver infection. It is caused by the Hepatitis B virus, which specifically attacks the liver. Worldwide, two billion people have been infected and 400 million people are chronically infected with the virus. Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood, which can occur with direct blood contact, unprotected sex, illegal drug use, and from an infected woman to her new born baby during delivery.
Hepatitis B is not transmitted casually; you cannot catch it through hugging, casual kissing, coughing or sneezing and sweat. You cannot get Hepatitis B from eating or drinking with someone who is infected or from eating food prepared by someone who has Hepatitis B.
Ghana belongs to the areas where the prevalence of chronic HBV infection is high (>8%) and that of Hepatitis C is also high among people in Northern part of Ghana (5-10%) there is high prevalence of HBV( 30%) among blood donors. In the year ending 2010 the incidence of viral Hepatitis in Ghana was 43/100 000 population with 102 deaths which represents a 30% increase as compared to the year 2006 incidence of 30/100 000 population ( the data is from Ghana Health Service)
Ghanaians living with the disease are unaware of their status and are not receiving care and treatment for their condition. Raising awareness about Hepatitis B is crucial to effectively fight stigmas, stem the tide of new infections, and ensure treatment reaches those who need it. Hepatitis B is a leading infectious cause of death, claiming the lives of millions of Ghanaians.
In the 1970s Ghanaians who travelled to Nigeria and Abidjan came back home in the early 1983 with diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other disease which I know was Hepatitis B. Those who donate blood to their loved ones were not screened because of ignorance. We’ve seen all the signs of Hepatitis B but we thought that the person or the family has been cursed. There is a Great River in Ghana called Antoa-Nyamaa; people used this river to curse. When someone has Hepatitis B and the disease gets to the cirrhosis stage there is a strong believes that the person has been cursed by Antoa-Nyamaa because the effects of the curse and symptoms of the Hepatitis B are the same.
There is traditional belief that Hepatitis B is a spiritual disease and you can get it if you are not strong in prayers, because of wrong belief we allow these false prophets to deceive us. Some of the doctors were treating people with wrong medication because of ignorance. Sometime I don’t understand why an educated person allows will these pastor who do not have any qualification to create confusion in their family. When you visit some of the churches in Ghana you will find these patients there receiving unapproved treatment. Last year someone called me from Kumasi and told me that he has Hepatitis B so he wants more information about it. I told him to run some tests to give me the fair idea about his situation, three days later this man called me again to tell me he visited a church and the pastor told him that he has a spiritual attack from his family so the pastor has given him some medication. The next day he called me again to inform me that he is now okay and I told him to be careful but he still insisted that the medication was good. One month later I heard this man had died because of ignorance.
There is also a traditional belief that Hepatitis B is hereditary so if your parents have it is automatic the children will also have it. Previously our doctors and nurses were ignorant so when the mother delivers she passed on the disease to her new born baby. Now if the mothers have HBV the child will be vaccinated within 24 hours to protect the child from getting the virus. Hepatitis B vaccine is the safest and most effective way of protection against HBV. The general public should be mindful where they go for the vaccines as most the vaccines are fake.
Most of the people who go to hospital to seek treatment are given blood which is affected by HBV. We go to hospital for solution to our problems but some of the people go there to buy sickness. Most of the patients get their virus through blood donation. Blood given were not screened. Our doctors should move from the tradition that they are always right. They should allow the patient to ask questions. I will also advise the patients to keep records of their results.
If you have Hepatitis B and C, you have to avoid regular alcohol consumption. Alcohol is toxic to the liver and may accelerate the progression of liver failure. Drugs, herbal supplements and other substances with known liver toxicity should be also avoided.
Join me on the 28th July 2013 at Techiman, let us say no to ignorance and Spread the word but not the virus.
From: Theobald Owusu-Ansah
President, Theobald Hepatitis B Foundation
Regional Board Member, World Hepatitis Alliance
Tel: +233-247-093-893/ +233-26-826-9214
Home: + 233-320-333-667
Web: www.theobaldhepb.org / www.worldhepatitisalliance.org