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.
More than 2 billion people world-wide have been infected by the hepatitis B virus and of that figure about 350 million are chronically ill. Also about 1 million carriers die of liver cancer or liver cirrhosis yearly.
The disease is common in Africa, parts of South America, Asia and parts of North America.
Human beings are the main reservoir of the infection. Spread is through blood, blood products, semen and vaginal fluids. Consequently, the disease can pass from one person to the other through blood transmission, sexual intercourse be it homosexual and heterosexual.
The disease spreads from mother to child during child birth by the mother’s blood passing into the blood of the baby or by the baby swallowing the blood of the mother, any of these could happen during child birth.
It can also spread through the use of contaminated sharp objects. Thus spread is common within a family especially in crowded homes, sharing tooth brushes, razors, towels and bath brushes promote spread.
The hepatitis B virus is present in the saliva, semen and vaginal fluids of infected persons, thus infection can spread through kissing or by sexual intercourse.
Vaccination against Hepatitis B can be passive or active. Passive vaccination is given to close personal contacts and household members of infected persons and especially babies born to mothers with Hepatitis B.
On the other hand, active vaccination is given to those going to areas where the disease is common, or those at great risk of contracting the disease such as healthcare workers, drug addicts and children in high risk areas for hepatitis B.
2.Exercising extreme precaution when treating hepatitis B patients.
This helps to prevent the entry of the hepatitis B virus into the body of the healthcare worker or a care giver or a close relative caring for a hepatitis B patient. This can happen if the skin of the carer is pierced accidentally by a sharp object such as a needle during treatment, splashing of infectious materials or wiping the face with contaminated hands or after handling co9ntaminated objects.
Consequently only disposable needles and syringes should be used, where that is not possible, they must be sterilized before re-use.
In the same vein, all blood and blood contaminated materials must be handled with utmost care.
3.Avoiding the use of common items.
We must avoid the use of common items such as tooth brushes, foot brushes, razors, and towels. This can aid the spread of the hepatitis B virus.
4.Avoiding contact with infected persons.
As stated in 2 above, close contact with infected persons promote infection. Close relations and friends must reduce contact with hepatitis B patient.
5.Avoid use of unsterilized sharp objects.
This mainly concerns drug addicts and healthcare providers. The use of disposable needles is advised; surgical instruments must be well sterilized before use.
6.Practicing safe sex by use of condoms
The hepatitis B virus is present in the saliva, semen or vaginal fluids of hepatitis B patient, consequently the disease can spread through sexual intercourse. Spread of the disease can therefore be prevented by safe sex practice since some spouses can be carriers.
7.Desisting from homosexuality.
Owing to more friction and cuts which are more associated with male homosexual practice, the latter tends to promote the spread of hepatitis B. Besides the semen of patient and carriers contain the virus.
Therefore desisting from homosexual practice helps to reduce the spread of the disease.
Always wash your hands with soap and water after contact with an infected patient followed by the use of sanitizer. The virus cannot survive the soap and off course washing also removes visible dirt.