Love your liver – look out for tell-tale signs of Hepatitis

Illustration of the Hepatitis C Virus/Image: cdc.gov

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 11 – ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’ from Broadway’s musical Annie, often characterizes our increasingly hectic lives, leaving us feeling tired almost all the time. However, if this chronic fatigue is coupled with a fever you may not be able to just sleep it off.

Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea should raise a red flag and send you off to the doctor. A yellowing of the eyes and dark yellow urine round off the telling signs of hepatitis

Hepatitis is a disease of the liver in which viruses or other mechanisms cause your liver to enlarge and stop it from functioning properly. There are up to five viral infections that cause hepatitis named as Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent liver damage and liver cancer.

Liver inflammation can also be caused by excessive alcohol intake and some toxic chemicals. Hepatitis affects people from all walks of life regardless of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96 percent of the deaths caused by viral hepatitis.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.3 million people died due to viral hepatitis in 2015 alone. Kenya is classified by WHO as being a Hepatitis B virus endemic region where the disease is very common.

The Nairobi Hospital set aside a whole month to create awareness on hepatitis to help reduce the prevalence of the disease and save lives. The Gastroenterology and Hepatology team at the hospital says that control of hepatitis depends on prevention and early detection and both are hinged on an individual’s knowledge about it. Acute infection may occur with limited or no symptoms.

Ending hepatitis is feasible but requires affordable and accessible diagnostics, treatment and prevention services which are all readily available at The Nairobi Hospital.

Protect Yourself

  • Talk to your health care provider about the Hepatitis vaccine.
  • Cook food well and eat it while hot. Avoid raw shellfish and raw meat.
  • ALWAYS wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, changing a baby’s nappy, before preparing food and before eating.
  • Peel fruit and vegetables, wash salads in clean water.
  • Only drink safe water.

In Kenya, researchers at the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) sounded an alarm in 2014 over the increasing number of Hepatitis B cases. A study carried out in 2013 revealed that the rate of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in the country is three times higher than that of HIV. About 1,200 blood donations out of 150,000 screened nationwide were found HIV-positive, compared with 3,000 that were HBV-positive.

Statistics show that 400 million people are infected with Hepatitis worldwide. Every year, 1.4 million people die from viral Hepatitis and yet many of these deaths could be prevented

With better awareness and understanding of how we can prevent Hepatitis, we can eliminate this disease and save lives.

Wambui Waweru :Wambui has been a broadcast journalist for over 10 years. Her twin areas of interest are sustainable development and business. She takes a keen interest in and reports on how information empowers a developing society.