On Tuesday 28 July 2020, UHAS marked World Hepatitis Day with a public lecture via Zoom platform. Professor Yaw Asante Awuku of the department of internal medicine and therapeutics, School of Medicine, spoke on “Changing the natural history of hepatitis B and liver cancer diseases in Ghana.”
Prof. Awuku said hepatitis B is caused by infection with the hepatitis B virus. People pass the virus to each other “when they come into contact with infected persons through sexual intercourse; parenterally, i.e., through the blood, use of illicit drugs, or medical procedures; and through mother-to-child transmission.”
The national prevalence rates of hepatitis B and other liver cancer diseases are: 8.36 percent of Ghanaian adults, 14 percent of adolescents and 0.55 percent of pre-school children/under five years. The prevalence rates among voluntary blood donors (VBDs), replacement blood donors (RBDs) and pregnant women are 10.8, 12.7 and 13.1 percent respectively.
Professor Awuku advanced that there is a high liability of infection with resulting high prevalence of chronic liver disease and liver cancer in Ghana. Most people are unaware of their infection, leaving them at risk for advanced liver disease; hepatitis B and hepatitis C are therefore the leading causes of liver cancer in Ghana. Liver cancer is one of the few cancers on the rise, and one of the deadliest.
Professor Awuku explained that although there is no cure, advanced stages of hepatitis B in adults have been managed because of early screening and vaccination. He therefore called for frequent and effective screening and vaccination to curtail the spread; and for urgent efforts to develop health policy strategies to decrease the burden of hepatocellular carcinoma in Ghana and Africa at large. He also advocated for piloting and scaling up of hepatitis B treatment centers across the country.
Professor Harry Tagbor, Dean of School of Medicine who chaired the lecture, expressed appreciation to Professor Yaw Asante Awuku and about 50 participants, who contributed with questions, suggestions and comments, for a successful event .”