Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hepatitis B infections in Kenya surpass HIV

The rate of Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in Kenya is currently three times higher than that of HIV, a study has revealed. The statistics indicate that the prevalence rate of HBV has risen and surpassed that of HIV three-fold in a span of two years.

A nationwide research conducted last year revealed that out of about 150,000 people who donated blood, 1,200 were found to be HIV-positive while 3,000 were diagnosed with HBV.

Like HIV, HBV is also transmitted through sexual intercourse, contaminated blood and from a mother to her child. If untreated, HBV could lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancers. This should be cause for alarm, as similar high data is being registered among HIV infected persons, showing a rising prevalence of co-infection with HBV.

Co-infected persons have an increased rate of liver disease, higher HBV and HIV viral loads, and poor response to anti-retroviral drugs.

HBV is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV and health workers who accidentally get needle stick injuries have a much higher chance of infection from HBV than from HIV. Approximately ten per cent of pregnant women and over 30 per cent of liver patients in Kenya are HBV infected.

Given that blood donors are a very highly selected population, researchers and stakeholders now contend that the prevalence in the general population may be much higher. It is, therefore, important that HIV infected persons also seek HBV testing.

In an endeavour to control the virus’ increasingly worrying trends, the Ministry of Health intends to create awareness through educating people about the dangers of HBV infections ahead of World Hepatitis Day marked on July 28th each year.


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