A new study carried out on sexually transmissible Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2) in Katsina has shown that majority of people in the state are infected but are not seeking diagnosis and treatment due to poverty and lack of awareness.
The study identified poverty, unprotected sex and lack of awareness as some of the factors responsible for the prevalence of the sexually transmitted infection in the state.
The study, published in the Journal of Transmitted Diseases and Immunity, examined the incidences and possible risk factors associated with subclinical genital herpes among different populations in the state.
Author of the study, Dr. Hayatudeen Rumah, from the Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina, said HSV-2 appears to be relatively high in the state, with older people more vulnerable to the infection than younger ones.
Rumah said HSV-2 is a significant public health problem, being one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted infections worldwide and the leading cause of genital ulcerative disease that is common in both industrialised and developing countries.
In the study, Rumah said a total of 460 blood samples were collected from six hospitals located across the three senatorial zones of the state. The subjects included 86 HIV-positive persons, 136 feverish patients, 125 pregnant women and 113 normal individuals.
According to him, the serum were separated from the blood and used for the analysis and the participant’s socio-demographic information and clinical presentations were also noted with the aid of a questionnaire.
“HSV-2 IgM were detected by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. The HSV-2 IgM were detected in 41.5 percent of all the serum tested.
“My study finds out that a significant majority of people infected in Katsina State are not seeking treatment and diagnosis of HSV-2 simply because they have little or no money for such purpose.
“According to report on infectious diseases of poverty, poverty-related circumstances such as lack of food, shelter, security and social protection make people more vulnerable to infections.
“Katsina State was ranked as second state in Nigeria with higher population of people that live below average poverty level.
“This factor can influence behaviours as shown in my research, income level and type of settlement affect the decision on whether or not to seek medical attention in case of manifestation of the clinical symptom of the diseases,” Rumah said.
The author noted that there was poor knowledge of genital herpes infection in the state because majority of the population have not even heard of the infection which he blamed for the spread of the virus in the state.
Giving insight into factors responsible for the high rate of HSV-2 infection in the state,
Rumah said, “Lack of knowledge and ignoring to know the individual HSV-2 infection status result to the failure of people not seeking needed care and treatment.
“Majority of the people in the state do not know and understand the mode of transmission of the virus. They have no awareness on how to prevent and control the spread of genital herpes infection. This can readily facilitate the spread of the virus in the population and rises its seroincidence level in the state.
“There is high level of ignorance in the state in terms of sexual practice and sexual education. Majority of the people are practicing unprotected sex even among those with visible clinical symptom of genital herpes.
“Also, many people in the state even among educated elite are seriously lacking knowledge on the mode of transmission and how to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
“Since the virus is silent in circulation and again is a sexually transmitted virus, practicing unprotected sex can easily increase its spread.”
According to him, predisposing factors like fever, pregnancy, HIV, cancer, among others escalate the rate of genital herpes infection in the state.
He, however, added that weak immune system and existing medical conditions make older people vulnerable to the infection as well.
The study pointed out that there is a need to educate the people on HSV-2 infection and its mode of transmission to reduce the level of its spread between different populations in the state.
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