The Ghana Health Services on Tuesday marked the celebration of the World Hepatitis Day, which fell on July 28, with the launch of a National Policy on viral Hepatitis in Accra.
Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by specific viruses that primarily attacks the liver with common types being hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, hepatitis D and hepatitis E.
The aim of the policy document is to give direction to the provision of quality driven, results oriented, client focused and affordable viral hepatitis prevention and control services in order to improve the health status of all people living with, and at risk of viral hepatitis in the country.
The policy areas include surveillance and response system capable of detecting, confirming and the management of all hepatitis cases in the country; and ensure an appropriate response to any outbreak, laboratory diagnosis services capable of detection and characterization of all types of viral hepatitis.
Other parts of the policy document include screening, prevention in health care facilities, advocacy and social mobilisation, treatment , care and support, research , regulation, implementation framework of the policy, monitoring and evaluation as well as resource mobilisation and financing of viral hepatitis prevention and control.
Speaking at the launch of the policy, Dr Emmanuel Dzotsi, Programme Manager, National Viral Hepatitis Control programme of the Ghana Health Service, said the policy was necessitated by the rampant reports of hepatitis cases across the country.
He said in Ghana, there are about 2.5 million people living with viral hepatitis and this has made the disease a major health concern.
He said the disease is a major cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and has become the second leading cause of cancer death in the world.
He said fever, flu-like illness and joint pains are some of the early symptoms of the disease with the acute symptoms been fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), pain in the upper right abdomen due to inflamed liver as some of the symptoms of the disease.
Dr Dzotsi said persons with multiple sex partners, commercial sex workers, homosexuals and persons who have unsafe sex, drug users as some of those at high risk of contracting the disease.
“Others include those at occupational risks of HBV infection, including health care workers, international travellers to countries with high risk of HBV and practices such as scarification, bloodletting, and circumcision with unsterile instruments.
On the prevention of the disease, he said vaccination is needed, washing of hands with safe water and soap, practicing of good sanitation and personal hygiene, and safe handling of food for the prevention of hepatitis A and E.
“For hepatitis B, C and D, the best ways to prevent them include avoidance with multiple sex partners, practicing of safe sex by using condoms, avoiding sharing of sharps objects like blades and needles, immunisation for children against hepatitis B and vaccination of hepatitis B for adults who have tested negative for the disease”, he said.
Dr Badu Sarkodie, Director, Public Health Division, Ministry of Health, called on Ghanaians to know their status by going to their nearest health facilities to get tested.
He said the policy document would give meaning to the way hepatitis is handled in the country and also chart a way on how the disease can be controlled.
Mr John Appiah, Director of Administration, Ministry of Health, who launched the policy document, said globally, nearly 500 million persons are living with chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C with virus infections which cause over one million deaths annually.
He said chronic liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer are the leading cause of cancerous death in Ghana and this is mainly due to the hepatitis infection.
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