Public Health Minister calls for intensified Hepatitis B awareness

− the disease is vaccine-preventable

DPI, Guyana, Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Hepatitis B virus is one that can cause acute and chronic liver infections, and while there is no cure, persons can avoid contracting the virus. The disease can be transmitted through infected blood products, unprotected sex, coming in contact with needles, unscreened blood transfusions, or from mother to child at birth.

Minister of Public Health, Hon. Volda Lawrence.

Public Health Minister, Hon. Volda Lawrence has noted that with an infection that can be transmitted in so many ways, there is a need to ensure persons know how they can protect themselves. She was at the time speaking at the opening session of a meeting to review the Expanded Programme on Immunisation and the Maternal and Child Health Programme of the ministry.

“This is a chronic viral illness with no cure… I wonder how many Guyanese know this fact; how many pregnant women know this and how many women who are planning to get pregnant are aware of this… we have to find ways and means to share this and to educate our people, both women and men and we have to find creative ways to ensure that we can reach them,” she stressed.

In many cases, the infection is asymptomatic, meaning persons do not exhibit signs of illness. Those with symptoms usually get ill 30 days to 6 months after exposure to the virus; these include fatigue, malaise, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice.

The illness can last several weeks, and some adults can become chronic carriers after being infected. Many countries are now including vaccination against Hepatitis B in their childhood vaccination schedules

In Guyana, the prevention of Hepatitis B is promoted through the issuing of the Hepatitis B vaccine at birth while all other at-risk persons are encouraged to take it as well. Ideally, the vaccine should be administered as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by 2 or 3 doses to complete the vaccine series. A safe and effective vaccine can protect from hepatitis B infection for life.

According to WHO, other at-risk persons include individuals who frequently require blood or blood products, for example, dialysis patients, health-care workers, household and sexual contacts of people with chronic Hepatitis B and persons with multiple sexual partners.

“The elimination of mother to child transmission of Hepatitis B is high on the international agenda, and Guyana has entered the race. We want to actively engage in this fight and we want to see it through to the end,” Minister Lawrence added.

The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the ministry, Dr. Shamdeo Persaud said the Hepatitis B vaccination is a routine injection and must be taken like the MMR (Measle, Mumps and Rubella), Yellow Fever and Diphtheria vaccines.

The Hepatitis B Vaccine is administered to children at the child health clinic located in the respective health centres across the country and to the wider public at the Ministry of Public Health’s Vaccination Centre on Brickdam.


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