By Minnie Karanja
Hepatitis is not a commonplace disease. However, there have been rising cases of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections and related deaths in Rwanda. The government, through Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) is hence currently conducting awareness campaigns to sensitize the public about the infections – causes, prevention and treatment.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viruses or toxic substances (e.g. alcohol). Viral hepatitis is liver inflammation due to a viral infection. There are different hepatitis virus types: A, B, C, D, E, etc. Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are most prone to cause chronic infection. For this reason, these 2 types have been the focus in national health strategic plans to combat viral hepatitis.
Both types of viruses cause acute infection, which may progress to chronic infection in some cases. Many of those chronically infected with either virus manifest no obvious signs or symptoms for decades; however, if left untreated, chronic infection can lead to fibrosis (scaring of liver tissue), cirrhosis (extensive scarring of the liver, later stage of fibrosis) and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Dr. Aimable MBITUYUMUREMYI, Director of Viral Hepatitis and STI Unit in RBC says, “Because many people infected with the virus do not show obvious signs of infection, many people seek treatment at a later stage when the infection is at an advanced level. At this stage, treatment is complicated with low chances of success.”