Hepatitis B Virus: Screening, Vaccination & Treatment at LLC

Hepatitis B virus has spread and become more prevalent and severe, especially among young people in our communities.  There are many myths about the cause of this viral disease, and modern medicine is often sought as a last resort, when the infection is at an advanced stage.  Sadly, most of such patients die within 6 months.  Indeed, this was the cause of death of our beloved teacher, Issah Musah, in 2009!

Happily, Hepatitis B screening, vaccination and treatment are increasingly available in many government and private health facilities. Screening costs Ghc 5 ($1.30) and the 3-dose vaccination costs Ghc 25 ($6.50) per dose.  If infected, the medication for the 6-month treatment is Ghc 50 ($13.00) per month.  These costs are not covered by the National Health Insurance program.  Thus, these services remain out of reach of many people.

It is in this light that we embarked on a Hepatitis B screening, vaccination and treatment project in LLC.  In mid April, Alice initiated a collaborative relationship with a nurse at the Gambaga Health Centre and a Lab technician (private) to undertake screening of all 250 students and all PAMBE Ghana staff, volunteer cooks and the two caretakers.  Staff could bring their families, but they would pay the cost.  The team generously reduced the cost of vaccination to Ghc 14 ($3.65) per dose for LLC.6-vaccine

The first day began with a Powerpoint presentation by the health team on Hepatitis B, with lower elementary students and their teachers, followed by those of upper elementary. We learned that the liver performs vital functions in the body to keep us healthy and strong, that Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, and the signs and symptoms of a sick liver. We learned that there are many types of Hepatitis but the focus was on Hepatitis B.

6-vaccine2The computer lab was transformed into a laboratory; the summer hut became the injection room and the library was the consulting room. The nurse drew blood samples and the lab technician did the testing of each sample.  It is worth noting here that our solar system provided power for the lab works.

All who tested negative moved on to the summer hut to be vaccinated by the community nurse.  The screening and vaccination was completed the following day.  Nine of the students tested positive.
We had a small intimate talk with the students, explaining why they could not be vaccinated and asking them to come to school with their parents /guardians the following morning. The Head teacher and Alice were able to contact the parents directly and invite them.

Both parents /guardians of affected students responded to the call. Here too, the health team was very generous.  They offered to test all the parents /guardians and any child who came with them, free of charge.  After a health talk on Hepatitis in general and HBV in particular, and question-and-answer period, the lab technician and his assistant proceeded to test all the parents and the babies and toddlers who came with their mothers.

All but one of the positive adult cases were women. Two siblings of one of our students also tested positive, while their father was negative. These results led to the conclusion that most of the infections were from mother-to-child.

The lab technician visited with both parents where possible and discussed their test results and the way forward with them.  He encouraged the couples to seek treatment for affected partners as soon as they could and advised the rest to take the 3-dose vaccination, both available in Gambaga for purchase.

6-vaccine3He also discussed the treatment schedule of the LLC students with parents and arranged to meet them the following day with the necessary medication to begin treatment.  PAMBE Ghana took charge of these medications. The nine children will be tested at the end of the 6-month treatment and, depending on the results, will begin the 3-dose vaccination or continue treatment.

Your donation today will help pay for this community-wide screening, provide students and family members with preventive vaccinations, and treat those already infected. Please help - click on the DONATE button.

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Your Donation Today Will Help PAMBE Ghana Provide:
-- Teacher's salary
-- Children’s health insurance
-- Montessori materials
-- Teacher education

PAMBE Ghana is a 501(c)(3) registered charitable organization.