When I first wrote this article it was dedicated to the memory of Merari Alomele, a true legend. My first editor when I started this column almost a decade ago. There will never be another Alor – humour, wit, relevant information and many more all rolled into one being. Yet who can begrudge The Almighty, he knows best.
28th July as always was World Hepatitis Day and the theme, “Finding The Missing Millions.” The goal is to create awareness of Hepatitis, find the undiagnosed and link them to care. I will however focus on Hepatitis B today.
These days it is common knowledge that a good way to make quick and easy money in “Sikaman” is to put fear in unsuspecting victims. Mushroom churches hyping witchcraft, herbalists and health professionals diagnosing doom at the least provocation, politicians painting opponents as the devil’s brigade and investment consultants in three-piece suits that will be the envy of Merari’s friend Kofi Kokotako, insisting that you will outlive your current savings unless……Life was much simpler in the “good old days”
People are screening for Hepatitis B in churches, market places, train stations, fetish shrines and every imaginable and unimaginable place. The most criminal aspect of this is that there is NO PRIOR COUNSELING in many of these situations. Some people in white coats even take advantage of people who test positive for Hepatitis B (the surface antigen) and charge exorbitant fees to “treat” them.
Can you imagine what goes through the minds of people who may test positive at a screening with neither pre nor post test counseling and may have to wait for several hours or days before seeing a doctor? They often enter the consulting room with one foot in the new world. Some would have started a new fast without the element of prayer, a few will be competing with cholera patients for the use of the “small room” and others develop a penchant to pray in tongues that even the apostles at Pentecost would have been envious of.
I know we are not screening enough people at the hospitals but if you need to do any form of screening please ensure that you have people adequately trained to counsel participants before and after the tests. Such a simple thing will reduce the number of people who develop instant diarrhoea, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and generalized anxiety disorder long before their liver will even sense it has a problem.
Yes, Hepatitis B is common in “Sikaman” but not everyone is dying from it. Seek early medical advice and in most cases you will live long enough to enjoy fufu and palm nut soup for many many years to come.
An acute episode of Hepatitis B, like many viral infections may present as:
• Loss of appetite
These symptoms may be followed by jaundice, an abnormal accumulation of the chemical bilirubin in the blood, which causes yellowing of the eyes, skin and body fluids (such as tears), as well as a darkening of the urine.
This sounds almost like malaria, doesn’t it? So you may be harming your liver if you continue to take medication to treat malaria without seeking medical attention.
Your doctor will request for a few tests that will provide information on the stage of your infection and the state of your liver.
Many professionals will just prescribe:
• Healthy lifestyle
• Avoid medications that have not been prescribed. Even popping paracetamol tablets at the least hint of pain could be dangerous. Avoid herbal preparations.
• Avoid alcohol
• Get adequate rest
A few may add a vitamin but that may simply be a matter of choice. Many people will be able to fight the virus and clear it from their system. A few others will not succeed on their own and may require further monitoring.
If there is a Hepatitis B, then there must be an A, C et cetera. RIGHT! We get Hepatitis A through the faeco-oral route which means; whenever you are diagnosed with Hepatitis A, you must have directly or indirectly eaten someone’s shit (pardon my language). Ensure you always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating and keep food and water appropriately.
We contract Hepatitis B and C through similar routes and these include:
• Unprotected sexual activity
• Needle sharing (includes drug users)
• Sharing of razors and toothbrushes
• Piercing or tattoos
• Transmission from infected mom to infant at time of delivery
You protect yourself by avoiding the above and also being vaccinated against the virus. You can only be given the vaccine if you test negative for hepatitis B surface antigen.
People with Hepatitis B, like those with HIV, COVID-19 and many other viral infections may look and feel perfectly well but as carriers, they can spread the infection.
Some good news here, you are unlikely to contract Hepatitis B infection from the following:
• Sharing food or drinks
Dear friend to avoid or fight most viral infections the drill remains the same, boost your immunity by:
• Exercising often and appropriately
• Eating a balanced meal and drinking adequate amounts of water
• Getting rest
And if a vaccine is available get vaccinated.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/Mobissel/St. Andrews Clinic
*Dr. Essel is a Medical Doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “Worldwide 290 Million people are living with viral Hepatitis unaware.” Let us raise awareness so that many more can be tested and receive the necessary care.
• Sikaman Palava – The Writings Of Merari Alomele
• Primed Patient Education Center – Harvard Medical School