We had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ezekiel Micah Tanko, who is the founder of Health Reformation Initiative, a nonprofit health initiative dedicated to reaching communities with holistic health care and preventive medicine through seminars and health outreach. Passionate about reducing the risk of the hepatitis virus, the initiative has organized outreach and held several seminars to enlight people about hepatitis, its cause, and preventive measures, plus carried out free screening for both hepatitis B and C, gave the free first dose of hepatitis B vaccine amidst other activities.
Interview with Dr. Ezekiel Micah Tanko
Streetspiration: Can you explain the hepatitis virus?
Dr. Ezekiel: Viral hepatitis is an infection that is caused by viruses, which mainly affect the hepatocytes, also known as the liver cells. In other words, it’s the inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. It can either be acute, which is less than 6 months from onset, or chronic, which is more than 6 months from onset. it can be caused by different viruses which I’m sure we will get to know as we move on. Since we are focused only on viral hepatitis I will stop here for now.
Streetspiration: What are the causes of the hepatitis virus?
Dr. Ezekiel: Basically the mode of transmission of the virus can either be;
Vertically: Mother to child during pregnancy, birth, and postnatal period.
Horizontally: Exposure to infected blood and blood products and other body fluids, which includes but is not all-encompassing, blood transfusion with infected blood, needle sticks, sexual intercourse, organ transplant, tattooing, circumcision, uvulectomy, multiple sexual partners, scarifications, Intravenous drug users, sharing of needles and sharps, etc. All the above can be a means of getting infected by the virus. But for hepatitis A it’s mainly fecal-oral, that is contaminated food, water…
Streetspiration: This is really vital information. Thank you for sharing. Tells us about the types of hepatitis and the most common type in the world?
Viral hepatitis: caused by viruses.
Autoimmune hepatitis: caused by one’s immune system.
Drug-induced hepatitis: caused by pharmacological and chemical agents.
Neonatal hepatitis: only occurs in the early stage of life. Day 1 to 60.
The most common type of hepatitis is viral hepatitis, which has different viruses that cause the disease, such as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E viruses, Cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus, Epstein-Barr virus, etc. Among viral hepatitis, the most common viruses are the A, B, and C viruses.
Streetspiration: What are the various symptoms of the hepatitis virus?
Dr. Ezekiel: Before I answer this question, it is good we know that most people with viral hepatitis at an early stage don’t show any symptoms, which is known as the asymptomatic stage.
The symptoms, if present are the same regardless of the cause. It can either be acute hepatitis or chronic hepatitis, as stated in our introduction.
Some of the common symptoms include; fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain(especially the right upper quadrant), dark urine, light-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice(yellowish discoloration of the eye, skin). As the disease progresses, the patient can have abdominal swelling, leg swelling, constipation, loss of weight, and confusion amidst other symptoms.
Streetspiration: What are the latest research findings on the hepatitis virus?
Dr. Ezekiel: There are different updates on hepatitis, as we all know medicine is an evolving profession with the latest finding daily. For hepatitis as will just mention like, the schedule for the hepatitis B vaccine is now day 0, 1 month then 6 months, not the former monthly dose.
For epidemiology, at least 1 person dies from viral hepatitis every 30secons which is even greater than that of HIV.
Lastly, the new combination for the treatment of hepatitis C is sofosbuvir with ledipasvir; sofosbuvir; daclatasvir, and ribavirin. And so much other research we may not be able to discuss now.
Streetspiration: Tell us about some of the common myths and facts about hepatitis?
Myth: Breastfeeding mothers with hepatitis should not breastfeed.
FACT: Hepatitis virus does not spread through breast milk, especially hepatitis c. However, those with cracked or bleeding nipples should temporarily stop breastfeeding until they are healed.
Myth: Hepatitis can be transmitted by kissing or holding hands.
FACT: Viral hepatitis is rarely transmitted by kissing, holding hands, sharing eating utensils, or even mosquito bites.
Myth: A hepatitis B-negative person can’t marry someone who is infected.
FACT: That’s not true. Hepatitis B has a vaccine, which the uninfected partner can take and be protected from transmitting the virus.
Myth: Viral hepatitis is genetic.
FACT: This is not true. Viral Hepatitis is caused by a virus. It is not genetic or inherited from parents. In rare circumstances, hepatitis can transmit from the mother to the child during childbirth, and this is due to contact with body fluid not genetic. However, the chance of this occurring is low.
Myth: There is a vaccine for all types of viral hepatitis.
FACT: This is not true. Currently, there are vaccines for hepatitis A and B. As of now, no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Myth: Hepatitis can be cured.
FACT: There is no cure found for hepatitis B. However, there are antiviral medications that can suppress the virus and one can live a normal life.
Streetspiration: How can one prevent the hepatitis virus?
Dr. Ezekiel: The major way to prevent hepatitis is to prevent the route of transmission, among which are:
Abstinence from sexual intercourse or having multiple sexual partners.
Promoting correct and consistent use of condoms.
Offering peer education.
Avoid sharing needles or sharp objects.
Increase access to safe blood, screening of donors
Post-exposure prophylaxis, (treatment given or action taken to prevent hepatitis) especially for the hepatitis B virus.
Vaccination, especially for the hepatitis B virus.
Streetspiration: What are the best management practices for hepatitis?
Dr. Ezekiel: The best management practice for hepatitis is preventing it from occurring because hepatitis is very much preventable.
Secondly, early detection of the disease, is key to a good outcome. This means I’m recommending regular screening for the viruses, more importantly, B and C. Early detection can help to keep the virus in check through follow-up and routine investigations, and also, lifestyle modifications (stop alcohol, and smoking, reduce protein, avoid unprescribed drugs, etc).
For the pharmacological treatment, it is not all hepatitis patients that are qualified to be placed on drugs. This is where going to the hospital is very important after the diagnosis is made, whether you are symptomatic or asymptomatic. Before placing the person on a drug some tests will need to be done (liver function test, viral load, full blood count, viral profile, abdominal scan, liver biopsy…) then if they meet the criteria to be placed on drugs, medication will be prescribed.
As we said early, only hepatitis C has a cure for now. B has no cure, but there are drugs to suppress the virus and supportive medications.
Lastly, whether you are on drugs or not, there is a need for continuous monitoring and follow-up. Lifestyle modification can not be over-emphasized in people infected with the virus. Thank you.
Streetspiration: Can you tell us about the “Health Reformation Initiative.” What is your mission and how do you work to achieve it?
Dr. Ezekiel: Health Reformation Initiative is a nongovernmental organization, which I started in August 2020 with support from my friends and colleagues.
Our mission is to reach every community with holistic health care and preventive medicine, and we have been doing this through our outreaches, donations, seminars/awareness, both online and onsite, and free screening.
We are on various social media platforms and you can reach us or follow us:
Facebook: Health Reformation Initiative
Call or WhatsApp: 07037508562
Streetspiration: How has Health Reformation Initiative been helping in fighting and reducing the risk of the hepatitis virus?
Dr. Ezekiel: Health Reformation Initiative has organized outreaches where we gave a talk on hepatitis, its causes, and preventive measures, and also carried out free screening for both hepatitis B and C. For those negative, they were given a free first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine and counsel for the need to complete the remaining two doses, and for dose positive, they were directed to a health facility for continued management.
Lastly, we have organized several online seminars on hepatitis. If you go to our social media pages you will find some information and facts shared, about hepatitis.
Meet Dr. Ezekiel Micah Tanko
Dr. Ezekiel Micah Tanko is a medical doctor who is passionate about preventive medicine. He is currently working with the Department of family medicine, Federal Medical Centre Jalingo, Taraba state, Nigeria. He is the founder of Health Reformation Initiative, a nonprofit health initiative dedicated to reaching communities with holistic health care and preventive medicine.