The Health Services Authority (HSA) and Cayman Islands Red Cross will mark World Hepatitis Day, which takes place annually on 28 July, by offering free health screenings for hepatitis while building greater public awareness on the elimination of mother to child transmission of hepatitis B and the importance of the hepatitis B vaccine.
Together, the organisations will offer free hepatitis screening on Tuesday, 30 July from 9am -1pm at the Red Cross Administration Offices, Cayman Corporate Centre on Hospital Road.
“Many infected persons are unaware of their condition, as a result, awareness and availability of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed,” said HIV and STI Programme Coordinator, Laura Elniski. “World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to increase efforts on hepatitis, encourage actions and engagement by individuals and organisations and highlight the need for a greater response. The hepatitis test is quick, easy and confidential; a small sample of blood and results are available within a couple of days.”
Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus that can lead to chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. Along with hepatitis C, hepatitis B is the second major killer infectious disease after tuberculosis, and nine times more people are infected with the disease than HIV. It is most commonly spread from mother to child at birth or through horizontal transmission, especially from an infected child to an uninfected child during the first five years of life.
Testing for hepatitis and the hepatitis B vaccine are offered at all HSA facilities (Cayman Islands Hospital, Faith Hospital in Cayman Brac and the district health centres) to persons of all ages. The vaccine is 98-100% effective in preventing new infections and is automatically offered to children 15 months and younger, who are already in the immunization programme. Treatment options are available for persons who are tested and found positive.
The best way to protect against hepatitis B is by getting the hepatitis B vaccine. Doctors recommend that all children get the vaccine.
• At birth - 1st dose in hospital within 24 hours
• 6 weeks - 2nd dose (along with BCG and 1st dose Rotavirus vaccine)
• 9 months - 3rd dose
Why should my child get the hepatitis B vaccine?
The vaccine prevents your child from developing liver disease and cancer from hepatitis B. It also protects other people from the disease because children with hepatitis B usually do not have symptoms, but they may pass the disease to others without anyone knowing they were infected.
Is the hepatitis B vaccine safe?
The hepatitis B vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing hepatitis B. Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects, but serious side effects caused by the hepatitis B vaccine are extremely rare.
What are the side effects?
Most people who get the hepatitis B vaccine will have no side effects at all. When side effects do occur, they are often very mild, such as a low fever (less than 101 degrees) or a sore arm from the shot. The baby will also need to complete the full hepatitis B vaccination series for best protection (series of three).
A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982. The vaccine is 98-100% effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer due to hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccine dose at birth
All babies should get the first shot of hepatitis B vaccine in the first 24 hours after birth. This shot acts as a safety net, reducing the risk of getting the disease from moms or family members who may not know they are infected with hepatitis B. When a mom has hepatitis B, there is an additional medicine that is given to infants in the first 12 hours of their life. This medication that can help to protect the baby against hepatitis B, is called the hepatitis B immune globulin (HBIG). HBIG gives a baby’s body a “boost” or extra help to fight the virus as soon as he/she is born.
What are the symptoms of hepatitis B?
Infants and young children usually show no symptoms. 7 out of 10 adolescents and adults with recent hepatitis B infection can cause: Loss of appetite, fever, tiredness, pain in muscles, joints and stomach, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, dark urine, yellow skin and eyes. These symptoms usually appear 3 or 4 months after a person gets the virus.
Who should not get this vaccine?
• Children who are allergic to yeast
• Children who were allergic to a previous dose of hepatitis B vaccine
• If the child has acute fever, then the vaccination should be postponed
A doctor’s advice is needed if the child has any other allergies or is allergic to other vaccines.
What if I did not have my child immunized as a newborn?
Children 15 months and younger, who are already in the immunization programme will automatically be offered the vaccine. Children older than 15 months can have the immunization at the parents request.
The hepatitis B vaccine, apart from protecting one’s health, is a requirement for entry into some overseas colleges and universities. A child who has completed the series of three injections does not need to be immunized again.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR DOCTOR OR ANY OF THE HEALTH SERVICES AUTHORITY DISTRICT HEALTH CENTRES.
George Town Health Centre — 244 2648
West Bay Health Centre — 949 3439
Bodden Town Health Centre — 947 2299
East End Health Centre — 947 7440
North Side Health Centre — 947 9525
Faith Hospital, Cayman Brac — 948 2242
Laura Elniski, HIV and STI Programme Coordinator