Monrovia - Faculty and Students of BlueCrest University College along with the outreach team of the Liberia National Hepatitis Foundation (LNHF) in picture after the awareness campaign lecture in the auditorium of the College
Mrs. Ruth Ibrahim, a member of the Liberia National Hepatitis Foundation (LNHF) outreach team, urging the students to take the message of the Hepatitis disease to their communities as the LNHF founder, Ms. Layah Kazouh, and others, including Dr. Gajendra Singh, BlueCrest University College’s Country Manager (far right), listen
Monrovia – Students of the BlueCrest University College in Oldest Congo Town were ecstatic last Friday, March 24, 2017, when members of the Liberia National Hepatitis Foundation (LNHF) took time off to spread awareness of the disease to them and some of their professors.
Presenting the dangers of Hepatitis, especially type ‘B’ poses, Ms. Layal Kazouh, founder of the Hepatitis Foundation, said her foundation is focused on this type ‘B’ because it is endemic to Liberia.
Ms. Kazouh said the disease presents symptoms like those of Malaria or Typhoid; therefore, it could be mistaken for either of them if a patient neglects to do clinical labs.
Ms. Kazouh, founder of the LNHF, who has the Master’s degree in Epidemiology, advised against self-medicating and buying over-the-counter drugs, as this may lead to accelerated liver damage.
She told this paper that she established the Foundation to bring awareness and education to the population about the effects of Hepatitis and to provide information on how to avoid contracting this deadly disease.
“Some people may experience symptoms of the illness that could last several weeks, including yellowing of the skin and eyes, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pains, persistent headache, neck pain as well as abdominal pain,” Ms. Kazouh further explained. She disclosed that jaundice (locally referred to as Yellow Janda) is a derivative of Hepatitis.
Speaking further, Ms. Kazouh stated that Hepatitis B virus could survive outside the body for up to a week and during this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
The incubation period of the virus is 75 days on average but can vary from 30 to 180 days.
The virus may be detected within 30 to 60 days after infection and can persist and develop into chronic Hepatitis B.
The type ‘B’ is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth (vertical transmission), or through horizontal transmission (exposure to infected blood), especially from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first five years of life.
The development of chronic infection is very common in infants infected from their mothers or by other means before the age of 5 years.
She used the occasion to urge parents to not neglect taking their children for vaccination.
Hepatitis B is spread through exposure to infected blood and various body fluids, such as saliva, sweat, menstrual, vaginal, and seminal fluids. Sexual transmission of hepatitis B may occur, particularly in unvaccinated men who have sex with men and heterosexual persons with multiple sex partners or contact with sex workers.
Transmission of the virus may also occur through the reuse of needles and syringes either in health-care settings or among persons who inject drugs.
Also, the infection can occur during medical, surgical and dental procedures, through tattooing, unclean toilets and bath places, toothbrushes or through the use of razors and similar objects contaminated with infected blood as well as untested donated blood for transfusion.
Ms. Kazouh conceived this idea of forming the Foundation in 2014 while writing her Masters of Public Health (MPH) dissertation on Hepatitis B following the death of her half-sister in 2011 due to liver cirrhosis caused by the disease.
She warned that hepatitis B virus could cause a chronic liver infection that can later develop into liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
“Unfortunately, there is little or no awareness of the disease in Liberia.”
She further explained to her audience, most of whom were the collegians, how when she went searching for data in hospitals and at the Ministry of Health, there was no substantial information available about the disease on which to write a graduate degree thesis.
She became very concerned especially when she began to talk to people about Hepatitis B. she realized that the level of awareness amongst the people that were most vulnerable was almost non-existent.
It became apparent to her that she must do something about it, so she established the Foundation and is currently doing all she can to spread the awareness of the disease.
Her Foundation has visited several learning institutions, including the United Methodist-own JJ Roberts High School on 12th Street in Sinkor and the Monrovia Christian Fellowship Church.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Hepatitis B prevalence is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, including Liberia, where between five to 10 percent of the adult population is chronically infected.
Also speaking during the awareness, Mrs. Ruth Ibrahim, and a member of the Foundation’s outreach team, urged the students to take the message of the disease back to their communities.
“As you have heard this today, you guys need to be good ambassadors and take the message back to your communities so that others get informed, too,” Mrs. Ibrahim stated.
For his part, Dr. Gajendra Singh, Country Manager, BlueCrest University College Liberia, thanked LNHF team for making his students a part of those who were targeted to receive awareness about the dangers that the disease poses to them and their families.
“As an IT [Information Technology] institution, we will work along with you to further spread the message about this disease,” Dr. Singh added.
The students obtained flyers and T-shirts from LNHF, which contained vital information about the disease.