Hepatitis C transmission via injecting drug use in Seychelles


13-July-2012

Prior to 2007, Hepatitis C infections was not a public health concern for Seychelles. This was because there was only isolated cases of Hepatitis C which was recorded locally before this time.

 Today we see that there has been a gradual increase in new Hepatitis C infection from 2007, with an upsurge in the incidence for the first quarter of this year. Up to March 2012, a total of 182 cases of this infection has been reported locally, the majority being detected in our male population. People as young as 14 years old have been diagnosed with Hepatitis C in Seychelles.
The Ministry of Health has also recorded 13 cases of Hepatitis C infection among people who are already infected with the HIV virus.

Prevalence of Hepatitis C infections are high among certain groups. The dramatic rise in the number of Hepatitis C cases in Seychelles should therefore be a call for great concern for us all.
 
Hepatitis C: What is it after all?
Hepatitis C is a disease caused by a virus (HCV) that leads to swelling of the liver. Certain groups of people are more at risk for this disease, and they include those who:

• Inject drugs and share a needle while doing so
• Have unprotected sexual contact
• Have regular contact with blood at work
• Have received a tattoo with unsterile instruments
• Shares personal items such as razors with someone who has Hepatitis C.

Most people who have been recently infected with Hepatitis C do not have symptoms. Some people do however have yellowing of the skin (jaundice). Other people could however show the following signs and symptoms:

Abdominal swelling or abdominal pain, dark urine, fatigue, fever, itching, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. Most people will however develop long-term (chronic) infection, which again may show no symptoms. Eventually the liver may become permanently scarred, what is known as ‘cirrhosis’. The person also may end up with liver cancer.
A blood test is necessary to diagnose Hepatitis C.
 
Prevention  is the key

• Do not inject illicit drugs, and especially do not share needles with anyone
• Make sure all instruments used when getting a tattoo or body piercing are clean and sterile 
• People who have more than one sexual partner should practice safer sex such as consistent use of condoms to avoid Hepatitis C as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV
• Avoid contact with blood or blood products whenever possible. Health care workers should follow precautions when handling blood and bodily fluids.
 
For more information talk to your nurse or doctor at your health centre.

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