Hepatitis; risk, burden and prevention


By Abanobi Nkachukwu .N

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver parenchyma, resulting from infection, immune system disorder, exposure to certain medications, alcohol, toxins or poison.
Depending on the type, the infection route of hepatitis could be: Fecal-oral, parenteral or percutaneous.

Who is at risk?

Travellers, healthcare workers, men who have sex with men (MSM), illicit drug users, sewage workers, food handlers, military personnel, prisoners, blood transfusions recipients and haemophiliacs, individuals with exsisting chronic diseases (Coelho & Macedo, 2019).

Public health burden of hepatitis infections

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

  • Chronic viral hepatitis affects over 70 million Africans (60 million with hepatitis B and 10 million with hepatitis C) with an epidemic of 325 million people globally, and over 90% of people living with hepatitis B and C,
  • At least 200,000 deaths a year in Africa, mostly among the youthful and productive population is attributable to hepatitis,
  • Every day, more than 3,600 people die of viral hepatitis-related liver disease, liver failure and liver cancer (WHO, 2017).

Prevention and control measures:

Preventive and control measures of hepatitis are aimed at:

  • Identifying at-risk individuals
  • Eliminating the causative agent
  • Preventing new infections

These measures include:

  • Getting vaccinated to prevent infection
  • Avoid re-using needles and other sharp objects in medical care, illicit drug use, beauty and grooming salons.
  • Always practicing the highest level of personal and food hygiene practices
  • Using polyurethane or latex condoms
  • Knowing your partner’s sexual history.

Uptake of Hepatitis Vaccine should be promoted.