Screening for Hepatitis C in Nigeria

Last Month’s Launch was a great success. People loved the website, there were lots of likes on our Facebook page and our Twitter page gained some followers. The feedback and interest about the website was extremely encouraging and it seems that Nigerians are looking for healthcare information.

Another important topic, especially with pre-employment screening; Often people undergo tests for blood-borne infections like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Syphilis and HIV and Chest X-ray to look for Tuberculosis particularly in job positions that are Help at home.

If a test is positive it is important to seek a Doctor’s consultation for confirmation and Treatment. There is treatment for these infections, and delayed treatment is dangerous in these cases if care is not sought in a timely fashion.

What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver.
The liver is an organ in the abdomen that acts as the cleaner. It removes toxins, makes proteins and factors and also stores nutrients. The liver can be attacked by viruses. Among these viruses are hepatitis A, B, C, and many others. I want to talk about hepatitis C, because of the important advances in the treatment and cure.

What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by a virus called Hepatitis C that can be contracted through contaminated sharp objects, dirty needles, contaminated medical instruments and medical equipment, shared razor blades, shared toothbrush, contaminated blood transfusion and sexual transmission.

What happens after infection?
When the Hepatitis C virus attacks the liver, it can cause swelling, yellow eyes (jaundice) and affects the ability of the liver to perform its function as a cleaner, producer and storer of nutrients. Some people may not manifest any symptoms.

As a result, essential factors are not produced and toxins accumulate in the body causing the person to be sick. This condition can progress to serious liver damage and liver cancer.

What is the test to check for Hepatitis C?
There is a blood test for Hepatitis C. It called Hepatitis C antibody test. This test is a screening test. It can show that someone may have been exposed to Hepatitis C but does not say they actually have it.

If this is positive, then another blood test is done to confirm that the virus is present and also to show how much virus is in the blood. Treatment can be started after infection is confirmed.

Is there a vaccine against Hepatitis C?  The answer is No. There are vaccines against Hepatitis A and B, but not C.

Is there treatment for Hepatitis C? What is the treatment?  Yes, there is treatment for Hepatitis C. The current treatment consists of pills, which are antiviral pills specifically made for treatment of Hepatitis C. Treatment usually takes 12 weeks and can cure Hepatitis C.

See your Doctor for Hepatitis blood test, if this is positive, talk to your Doctor about treatment or referral to a Specialist Hepatologist (liver specialist), Gastroenterologist or Infectious disease Doctor. Doctors who treat Hepatitis C are available at the Teaching Hospitals or Tertiary Healthcare institutions in Nigeria. A great resource for information on care for Hepatitis C is the Society of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN).

Written by Dr. Ngozi Onuoha.

As always, see your Doctor for all health advice. This website is for information only and is not to diagnose or treat illness.

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