Hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by various viruses. There about seven recognized viruses responsible for the infection of the liver:–hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F and G. Of these A,B, C, and E are of greatest concern to health practitioners. Collectively all the types of hepatitis kill about 1.4 million people globally every year. However not much is known by the public about the disease and hence not much is done in the way of prevention on personal level.
Hepatitis A is caused by Hepatitis A virus. It is very common in Africa, Central and South America, and the whole of Asia except Japan. However it also affects people in the North America and Western Europe. About 2 million persons are affected every year globally; one infection confers lifelong protection against the disease.
Hepatitis A spreads through food and water contaminated by stool (shit) and occasionally the urine of an infected person. The stool/urine gets to food and water through unwashed fingers and open defeacation. It can also spread through the use of contaminated sharp objects and homosexual sex. The virus is present in stool of an infected person from the time of exposure till the early stage of the illness. It is also present in the blood and urine during this early stage of the illness. Close contact with an infected person could also aid spread through contamination of say the fingers of the other person during a hand shake.
Vaccination against Hepatitis A can be passive or active. Passive vaccination is given to close personal contacts and household members of infected persons. On the other hand, active vaccination is given to those going to areas where the disease is common, food handlers, drug addicts and children in high risk areas for hepatitis A. Protection can last for about 20 years.
Cook all foods thoroughly. Vegetables must be properly washed before cooking. Ditto for fruits. All cooked foods must be properly covered to protect them from flies that can contaminate them. Heat cooked food before eating, this will kill any germs including the Hepatitis A virus.
Only about 40 percent of Nigerians have access to proper sanitation facilities, consequently defeacation is mainly in the open. Hepatitis A virus is contained in the stool (shit) of an infected person; with open defeacation, sources of water are easily contaminated. The incidence of Hepatitis A is lower in countries with proper sanitation facilities.
On the individual level, we must avoid defeacting in the open, even in villages, pit latrines now exist. We must use them.
Always wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet. Do the same before preparing food and also before eating. The virus cannot survive the soap and off course washing also removes visible dirt.
Always boil your water for drinking or drink only bottled water. Heat kills the virus. After boiling, keep in special containers with cover; the boiled water be used for only 24 hours, boil another one for the next 24 hours or re-boil it.
This mainly concerns drug addicts and healthcare providers. The use of disposable needles is advised; surgical instruments must be well sterilized before use.