Mr Speaker, I rise to make a Statement on a silent killer, hepatitis B.
Today, 14th February, 2013 is observed worldwide as St. Valentine's Day, associated with romance. Mr Speaker, here in Ghana, some call it “Chocolate Day”, some call it “Lovers Day”. Anyway we choose to call the Day, it leads us to one thing -- a day where we show love to our loved ones.
Mr Speaker, it is based on this that, I wish to draw our attention to the need to ensure a conscious combat against one of the most dangerous and silent killer diseases in our society known as Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B basically, is an irritation and swelling (inflammation ) of the liver due to infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is said to be fast-spreading among Ghanaians, with about four million people currently affected by the disease. This infection has two possible phrases: (1) acute and (2) chronic.
Mr Speaker, acute hepatitis B refers to newly acquired infections. Affected individuals notice symptoms approximately 1 to 4 months after exposure to the virus. In most people with acute hepatitis B, symptoms resolve over weeks to months and they are cured of the infection. However, a small number of people develop a very severe, life-threatening form of acute hepatitis B called fulminant hepatitis.
Mr Speaker, chronic hepatitis B is an infection with HBV that lasts longer than 6 months. Once the infection becomes chronic, it may never go away completely.
Hepatitis B virus (HBV) affects many people and ranks behind HIV/AIDS as the tenth leading cause of death in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about two billion people are infected with hepatitis B&C, of which nearly one million deaths occur annually. Information available reveals that the situation is no different in Ghana. According to the Ghana demographic health survey, HBV is very endemic in Ghana.
Mr Speaker, one out of five Ghanaians is infected by hepatitis B. According to the Health Service report in 2009, there is a rate of infection recorded in 2005, which stood at a ratio of 8:1as against 6:1 now. Again, in Ghana, HBV is largely a disease of children and young adults aged 10-50 years, about 0.7 to 1.6 million Ghanaians are chronic hepatitis B carriers.
Indeed, WHO has indicated that, hepatitis B virus is (50 -100 per cent) more infectious than the HIV virus. This implies that the organism which causes hepatitis B can be isolated in all body fluids, and other body fluids like saliva, sweat, blood, semen, vaginal fluids and other body fluids, mother- child transmission, et cetera.
This makes it possible for the organism to spread through the mere sharing of spoons, tooth brush, barbering machines, pedicure and manicure procedures, sharing of syringes and needles (especially drug addicts), kissing and unprotected sex, just to mention a few.
Mr Speaker, the danger of hepatitis B is that it is asymptomatic This means that those living with the condition do not show any symptom. This, notwithstanding, causes
the disease to spread freely since those affected are not aware of their condition. The disease, just like HIV/AIDS can only be managed. It has no cure due to its complex nature. Persons who are diagnosed with the disease will have to spend GH¢400 to undergo an investigation to determine their level of infection.
The cost of the oral treatment spans between GH¢300 and GH¢400 a month and costs between GH¢300 and GH¢400 a week to take an injection for 48 weeks as a way of managing the condition. The good news however, is that hepatitis B unlike HIV/ AIDS has a vaccine that protects people against it.
Due to the complexities and the challenges posed by hepatitis B to the youth in particular and the nation at large, I suggest that we put in place strategic policies that target those who are chronic to manage, especially to make sure that the investigations they do which are very expensive are taken care of by either health insurances or an insurance company and also to make sure that those who are supposed to be prevented from the disease are given the necessary interventions.
Mr Speaker, in conclusion, the hard work and dedication of doctors and other health- care professionals, researchers, and advocates will help in censuring a healthy citizenry for economic development and growth. We must make sure that this “silent epidemic” does not go unnoticed by health- care professionals, the Government, and communities across the country.
Mr Speaker, I also strongly propose that we task the appropriate agencies to deepen the awareness or education on hepatitis B in an effort to help change unsafe or unhealthy human behaviour that elicits this situation.
Today, 14th February, 2013 marks the celebration of the popular Valentine's Day. Since this Day is set aside for us to show