Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hepatitis B - a silent emergency in Senegal

DAKAR, 8 May 2014 (IRIN) - More than two million people in Senegal, or some 15 percent of the population, including 350,000 chronic carriers, have hepatitis B as a result of untimely vaccinations, prohibitive treatment costs and lack of universal screening to curb transmissions.

“It’s quite an urgent public health concern,” said Mamadou Mourtalla Ka, dean of the Thies School of Medicine in Senegal and a viral hepatitis and liver cancer researcher. “Hepatitis B is much more common than people think and causes many illnesses, many deaths here each year.”

Hepatitis B virus (HBV), which can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer, affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide. It is one of the most prevalent and serious viral infections in the world, affecting more people than HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, yet it remains a low priority in many countries, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance. The prevalence is particularly high in West Africa, where 10-15 percent of the population is believed to be infected with HBV.

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