A new research has shown that barbers and other beauticians could be spreading hepatitis B and other infectious diseases, through the use of unsterilised tools.
The study conducted by the Clinical Microbiology Department of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Medical School found that over 90 percent of barbers have no idea about hepatitis B virus and the job-related risk factors of spreading it.
The study conducted in Kumasi sought to establish the link between the barber’s knowledge of occupational risks that could contribute to the spread of hepatitis B virus infections.
As Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) also called liver cancer is reported as a leading cause of cancer mortality among males in Ghana.
The randomized cross-sectional study surveyed 200 barbershops in Kumasi between January and August 2013.
Barbershops, which operated continuously for more than eight months, were selected for the study.
Interestingly, the researchers found that many of the barbers who used ultraviolet (UV) radiation method to sterilise their instruments replaced malfunctioned UV light bulbs with mercury bulbs.
The UV radiation cabinets are designed to kill germs including viruses by denaturing their DNA but most barbers seem not to know the actual mechanism of sterilization.
The report states some barbers used the UV sterilizer cabinets as storage boxes for their instruments. In some barber shops the UV sterilizer cabinets were for decorative purposes only.
Experts also say many beauticians are unaware of the mode of disease transmission in relation to proper handling of cutting tools.
Health officials warn poor sterilisation can cause transmission of infectious diseases.
Leader of the team, Dr Mohammed Mutocheluh said he was inspired to be part of the research because as a virologist he gets alarmed at the manner in which barbers handle their tools.
“As a virologist I’m fully aware about 15 percent of Ghanaians are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus, which we reported in 2014 and also I’m aware Hepatitis B virus is a hundred times more infectious than HIV.
“I’ve been going to the barber’s shop to trim my hair I have been watching them and thought to research into their knowledge in the spread of Hepatitis B infection,” he said.
The researchers found that only 7 percent of the respondents knew the route cause of transmission of Hepatitis B and HCV respectively. Another seven percent also said they knew sharing infected razor blades or hair trimmers could transmit both HBV and HCV.
About two percent also said they knew HBV and HCV could cause cancer, while only two percent had received the HBV vaccine.
Dr. Mohamed Mutocheluh believes the development could have serious public health implication.
The research also found 46 percent of barbers use ultraviolet radiation sterilizers, while 29 percent use 70 percent alcohol and 27 use antiseptic solutions.
Dr Mutocheluh has recommended that barbers and beauticians are the required given training towards prevention of blood- borne infections associated with their profession.