Dr. Jeanine Condo, former EASST fellow and currently director general of the Rwanda Biomedical Center, comments on the new campaign launched by the Rwanda Biomedical Center to provide free hepatitis B vaccinations to over 2000 people in the Nyarugenge District, Rwanda. The original post was written by Diane Mushimiyimana, and can be found on the Rwanda Focus, here.
The Ministry of health through Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) has launched a campaign against viral hepatitis infections. This has been done by providing hepatitis B vaccination to over 2000 people free of charge at the Kigali Car free zone in Nyarugenge District.
This initiative aims at raising awareness of hepatitis and urgently promoting access to its prevention services and treatment access for hepatitis B and C patients.This exercise also precedes the marking of the World Hepatitis Day celebrated every July 28th whose theme this year is 'Prevent Hepatitis, Act Now'.
According to RBC, the campaign will put more emphasis on prevention and Viral hepatitis B and C infections which are the most common blood-borne infections and are potentially life-threatening liver infections in Rwanda. The two infections cause chronic liver disease and put people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, poor appetite, belly pain, a mild fever, or yellow skin or eyes (jaundice). When hepatitis B and C become chronic, they may cause no symptoms for years. By the time there are any warning signs, the liver may already be damaged.
"The good news is that Hepatitis B is preventable by a vaccine available in Rwanda and that is why prevention will be seriously addressed during the campaign. Hepatitis C, currently has no vaccine, we call upon all the people to look out for early screening of it so as to be able to get early treatment.
Now all district hospitals in Rwanda provide Hepatitis screening services and treatment services are available at the Rwanda Military Hospital, CHUB, CHUK and King Faisal hospital," said Dr. Jeanine Condo Umutesi, the director general of RBC.
Dr. Sabin Nsanzimana, head of HIV/STI and Other Blood Borne Infections Division at RBC Rwanda explains that Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. It may be caused by drugs, alcohol use, or certain medical conditions. But in most cases, it's caused by a virus. This is known as viral hepatitis, and the most common forms are hepatitis A, B, and C.
Dr Nsanzimana reminded the public that the most common way to get hepatitis B and C is through exposure to infected blood( sexual transmission or by sharing sharp Items. Therefore people are urged to avoid risky behaviors and get vaccines where applicable to remain hepatitis-free.
In Rwanda, the prevalence of hepatitis B and C infections in the general population is not well known and the mortality related to these infections is not accurately established. However, results from Rwanda blood donor surveillance (2002-2012) show a prevalence of hepatitis B stands at 3.2% while the OMS figures indicates that the Hepatitis C prevalence is 4% in Rwanda.
Worldwide, an estimated two billion people have been infected with the hepatitis B virus and approximately 360 million people are chronically infected while more than 185 million live with hepatitis C chronic infection.
Hepatitis B is estimated to be responsible for 500,000 - 700,000 deaths worldwide each year while 350,000 people die from hepatitis C each year.
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