ALERT: What you need to know about Hepatitis C


By our reporter

Hepatitis remains a public health challenge in Uganda and the commonest causes of viral hepatitis include one of the five heterotypes; A,B,C,D and E.

Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by infectious agents such as viruses, bacteria and non-infectious agents such as toxins, drugs, alcohol.

The liver is an important organ that filters toxins from your blood, makes enzymes that help you digest food, stores sugar and nutrients, and helps you fight infections.

According to the Population based HIV Impact Assessment survey, (UPHIA, 2016) the disease prevalence in Uganda varies from region to region being highest in North and lowest in Southwest.

Read more: ALERT: Regions where risk of Hepatitis B infection is high in Uganda

The most popular of the five heterotypes is Hepatitis B but chronic hepatitis C can result also in serious, even life-threatening health problems like severe scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer.

Read more: Crucial facts about Hepatitis B: its transmission, prevention measures available in Uganda

For some people, hepatitis C is a short-term illness, but for more than half of people who become infected with the hepatitis C virus, it becomes a long-term, chronic infection -according to Center for Disease control (CDC).

However, people with chronic hepatitis C can often have no symptoms and don’t feel sick.

Some people may present with fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, joint pain, and jaundice (yellowing of skin and the white part of the eyes).

When symptoms appear, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C and the best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially injecting drugs.

Hepatitis C virus spreads through sharing of sharp instruments such as needles and syringes. It can also be transmitted through unsafe blood transmission from one person to another.

Uganda currently has strategies for prevention of transmission of hepatitis C virus infection but the country is yet to start offering treatment services for the disease.

Read more: Why it is important for Pregnant Mothers to undergo screening for Hepatitis B

While Uganda has routine early childhood vaccination programmes against hepatitis B virus (another serious liver infection), the current strategy against Hepatitis C infection is only prevention because there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C as yet. The good news is that Hepatitis C is curable.

According to Dr. Felix Kawooya an associate with the Ministry of Health screening of blood samples at the Blood Bank shows an increasing trend of Hepatitis C in Uganda and for this reason, the country is planning to introduce treatment services soon.

While the ministry of Health recommends that All persons in Uganda should be screened, the following categories are at a higher risk and should be given priority;

Health workers/students undertaking health-related course, Pregnant women, People living with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections, Household contacts of an infected person, Sexual contacts of people with CHB, Armed forces including the army and police.

Other categories include Prisoners, Sicklers or other patients who frequently receive blood/blood products, Blood and organ donors or recipients, Multiple sexual partners, Sex workers, People who inject drugs, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and All persons deemed at risk.



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