October 10, 2021 2:16:30 am
Lack of proper awareness about Hepatitis B, a vaccine-preventable viral infectious disease, among ASHA workers as well as antenatal and post-natal women is a “matter of concern”, according to a study conducted in Sabarkantha by the Indian Institute of Public Health in Gandhinagar (IIPH-G) and two other diabetes care centres based in Vadodara and Ahmedabad.
The knowledge gaps include aspects pertaining to modes of transmission as well as whether it is infectious or not, symptoms, prevention method and correct dosage schedule of vaccine, and confusion in differentiating between Hepatitis A, B and E.
As World Health Organisation records, Hepatitis B is a “potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV)” and can cause “chronic infection and put people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer”.
As many as 58 ASHA personnel and 281 antenatal (ANC) and postnatal (PNC) women participated in the study to assess the knowledge in supply-side (ASHA) and demand-side (ANC/PNC women).
As the prevalence of Hepatitis B is two to four-fold higher among healthcare workers than that of the general population, the study found that only about half of the ASHA workers had taken the Hepatitis B vaccination and even among them, only about 10 per cent (six of the 58 ASHAs) had taken all three doses.
While about half of the participating ASHA workers knew about the transmission of the viral disease by blood and blood-related products, only 13 knew that it could be transmitted by unprotected sex and even fewer (9) knew of mother to child transmission.
While about 80 per cent of ASHA workers were aware of the birth dose of the Hepatitis B vaccine, only about 24 per cent of them (14) knew of the subsequent dosing schedule at the sixth, 10th and 14th week. This gains significance as practically 98 per cent of ASHA workers counsel for institutional delivery and child immunisation to antenatal care women.
Among the 281 ANC/PNC women, all except five were unaware of vertical transmission from mother to child and had practically no knowledge about the prevention of Hepatitis B.
The study notes, “It was also observed that response for contamination mode of transmission was also noted more than expected number… jaundice was the first answer when asked them for symptoms of Hepatitis B. It showed that, still the differential-difference is not seen for hepatitis A, E with Hepatitis B across the health system actors as well as among the community population.”
Published in the October-December issue of the International Journal of Medicine and Public Health, the authors recommend an “urgent need to draw attention to the level of awareness about HBV infection, implementation of National Viral Hepatitis control program (NVHCP) activities on the ground level”.
Frequent training and monitoring of healthcare workers and the community may improve in knowledge, attitude, and preventive practices, the study adds.
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