Do Something About Hepatitis B

Tue, 25 Dec 2012 Source: Obeng, Raymond

Do Something About Hepatitis B In Our Senior High Schools, Mr. Health Minister

By: Raymond Obeng, Boston, MA, USA.

The eating and dressing behaviors of our students especially those in the Senior High Schools, coupled with other forms of disheartening lifestyles possessing the possibility of causing the spread of Hepatitis B has been a great concern to some well-meaning policy makers, advocates, and Non-Government Organizations in Ghana.

Some concerned educators who supervise the activities of our students have clearly added their voice to how serious the situation is. The overcrowding and lack of proper accommodation in most boarding houses are worrying. Most male students eating from the same bowls at dining, and some sipping beverages with the same cup, or using the same cup or spoon at meal time without thinking about its negative impact is alarming. Some jealous and poor students stealing their colleagues’ underwear clothes is another disaster. Some sneaking during day and night to indulge in some unholy, illegal, unprotected sexual acts is catastrophic. The sharing of piercing and sharp objects like blades and scissors, and clothes sends shivers down the spines of activists. General sanitation in some of our schools drives seriously responsive minds insane. The situation is so unbearable that School Administrators have decided to collect Hepatitis B fees to help save the souls of Ghana’s future leaders, but this deters poor and needy students from attending classes, since they have a lot of fees to settle.

Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B virus. It is a major global health problem and the most serious type of viral hepatitis. It can cause chronic liver disease and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer. World Health Organization has revealed that worldwide, an estimated two billion people have been infected with the Hepatitis B virus and more than 240 million have chronic liver infections. About 600 000 people die every year due to the acute or chronic consequences of Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B virus is transmitted between people by direct blood-to-blood contact or semen and vaginal fluid of an infected person. Modes of transmission are the same as those for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but the Hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more infectious. Unlike HIV, the Hepatitis B virus can survive outside the body for at least seven days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine. According to allafrica.com, in Ghana, it is estimated that one out of five Ghanaians is affected by Hepatitis B.

The above staggering revelations call for immediate action to help combat this menace in our schools. One worrying issue is funding arrangements for Hepatitis B education in Ghana is absolutely nonexistent. In view of this, enough awareness has not been created, and the majority of students affected are unaware. This is because there are no peculiar symptoms apart from the normal headaches which they are familiar with, and as such, do not take it very serious.

The fight against the disease in the Senior High Schools should be a national concern whereby every stakeholder in the country ought to be involved in finding better approaches in safeguarding the future of our young ones. The Ministry of Health should ensure nationwide free Hepatitis B counseling and screening. Those who test positive after the screening should be treated, whereas those who test negative should be vaccinated. The good news is a vaccine against Hepatitis B has been available since 1982 and it is ninety five percent effective in preventing infection and its chronic consequences. Similarly, the Ghanaian media, and all the NGOs particularly interested in this worthy cause, should vigorously continue to offer their support for the crusade to help bring Hepatitis B infection under control in our schools and the country at large.

Columnist: Obeng, Raymond