The Medical Director of MedTech Medical Centre, Dr Betty Attafuah, has called for the inclusion of Hepatitis ‘B’ treatment in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to help reduce the spread of the infection in the country.
She said the treatment and management of the disease, which was currently not under the scheme, was preventing many people from getting access to treatment.
“Pregnant women, who are positive, are supposed to receive a vaccine and when they deliver, the baby is supposed to receive a vaccine within 12 hours to protect it from being a chronic carrier, but that vaccine is about GH¢1,000 and not everyone can afford it.
“So we are hoping that NHIS will inculcate the vaccine in the scheme so that it will be easy to get it,” the director said.
Dr Attafuah made the call at the Head Office of the Graphic Communication Group Limited (GCGL) in Accra yesterday, after a free hepatitis ‘B’ screening exercise for staff of the company by the medical facility as part of activities to commemorate the World Hepatitis Day.
About 80 staff were screened for the disease.
The MedTech staff earlier administered a questionnaire to gauge the level of awareness, after which Dr Attafuah made a presentation on the disease.
The day is marked on July 28 every year to coincide with the birthday of Dr Baruch Blumberg, an American physician credited with discovering the disease in 1967. He also developed the hepatitis ‘B’ vaccine two years later in 1969.
The disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can also cause both acute and chronic infections.
When the infection lasts for more than six months, it can develop into chronic Hepatitis ‘B’, which can lead to chronic inflammation of the liver — cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer or failure.
The virus is spread through contact with body fluids of an infected person such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids and saliva.
Symptoms of the disease include abdominal pain, dark urine, fever, joint pain, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting, weakness, fatigue, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.
Medical researchers had identified five main viral classifications of hepatitis — A, B, C, D and E.
A different virus is responsible for each type of viral hepatitis.
A 2022 Report by WHO indicates that nearly 296 million people are chronically infected with the disease, with an annual mortality of 820,000.
In Africa alone, about 60 million people are estimated to have hepatitis B viral (HBV) infection (WHO, 2020), and a higher proportion of these people reside in central and western Africa (WHO, 2017).
In Ghana, 12.3 per cent of the population have hepatitis B, and it is estimated that 3,000 people contract the disease every day.
Dr Attafuah advised people to go for screening to know their status to prevent its spread.
She cautioned against the unbridled use of herbal medications, especially those that had not undergone the required tests and a complete cessation of alcoholism which is one of the causes of the disease.