Hepatitis is a prevalent condition in Sierra Leonean communities. It is transmitted through various methods but all include contamination through HBV (Hepatitis B Virus) infected blood or bodily fluids. The main symptom of the disease is inflammation of the liver, leading to stomach distention and pain the abdomen. The patient may also have yellow-stained skin.
Sexual contact is one way where the disease is transmitted as well as infection via needles. This is extremely concerning for health workers who actively come into contact with the blood of patients, even when wearing protective gloves.
Infection between a pregnant mother and her unborn child is also common, unless the newborn is vaccinated immediately. In extreme cases, Hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis.
The Hepatitis B vaccination is given through a 3 to 4 course of injections over a period of 6 months. Where cases have already been confirmed as positive, antiviral medication (tenofovir/interferon) will be prescribed, and in extreme cases a liver transplant. However, in Sierra Leone the capacity for the latter is non-existent due to lack of equipment and training.
At Magbenteh Community Hospital we have seen a rise in Hepatitis B, with a total of 1,491 executed tests between January and August 2018, with 273 positive results. Sensitisation of vaccination and treatment continues to be emphasised to patients by our medical team, especially in the antenatal and under-five clinics.