What you need to know:
- The medics say this could eliminate mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
Experts have asked government to introduce hepatitis B dose at birth to reduce the number of new infections.
They recommended that all newborn babies receive the first dose after birth – preferably within 24 hours – followed by at least two doses.
The medics say this could eliminate mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
According to the 2016 Uganda Population-based HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) Survey, prevalence of hepatitis B infection among adults stood at 4.3 percent (5.6 percent among men and 3.1 percent among women).
The survey indicated that hepatitis B prevalence was highest in the Northern region with 4.6 percent in the mid North, 4.4 per cent in Northeast and 3.8 percent in West Nile.
Hepatitis B infection was lower in the rest of the country with a range of 0.8 percent in the southwest region to 2.7 percent in the east central region.
“We are worried that the rate is higher because the report we are getting from hospitals is that the cases have increased. So, we suspect that the incident is even higher than that,” Dr Umar Anule of Mulago National Referral Hospital told journalists in Lira City on Tuesday.
He also disclosed that 80 percent of those who get infected acquire the disease during birth.
Dr Anule further revealed that hepatitis B is among the leading killer diseases.
A team of doctors from Hepatitis Aid Organisation (HAO) was in Lira City on Tuesday to advocate for the vaccination of all newborn babies within 24 hours of birth, which they have baptised as hepatitis B birth dose.
HAO is a patient-led organisation whose mission is to engage, strengthen and empower communities in the fight against hepatitis in Uganda.
“Hepatitis B is transmitted from mother-to-child at birth. By the time our babies receive the pentavalent vaccine at six weeks, they are already exposed to the infection,” Dr Anule said at a press conference at Lira District Health Officer boardroom.
The Lira District health inspector, Mr James Odur, said research reveals that most children under the age of five years are infected with hepatitis B.
Mr Emma Lutamaguzi Bakojja, the executive director of HAO, said: “A timely intervention will save government recurrent expenses on management and treatment of hepatitis B patients. Every delay continues to cause more preventable deaths.”
Uganda is one of the highly endemic countries for hepatitis B with 52 percent life time exposure of the population, while nine of every 10 people in Uganda do not know their status, the 2016 Uganda Population-Based HIV Impact Survey reveals.