By CHIOMA OBINNA & GABRIEL OLAWALE
A medical researcher at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, NIMR, Dr Rosemary Audu, says over 20 million Nigerians are living with Hepatitis B Virus, HBV.
Audu, who is the Head, Human Virology Laboratory, of the Institute described Hepatitis B as a silent disease which could infect people for many years without clear manifestation or symptoms.
Speaking during a symposium to mark World Hepatitis Day with the theme: “Hepatitis: Think Again”, she said:”The viruses which caused hepatitis are known as viral hepatitis and the most common forms in Nigeria are the B and C variants. Hepatitis B is, however, more prevalent than Hepatitis C. “HBV is 100 times more infectious that Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
“The infection has reached hyper-endemic levels in Nigeria, with the sero-prevalence of hepatitis B virus estimated to range from 10 per cent to 40 per cent.
Further, she said it means in every 10 Nigerians one and four will test positive for HBV and over 20 million Nigerians are living with the infection.”
Audu advised the public to go for screening to aid prompt treatment and prevent mortality due to hepatitis.
Director-General, NIMR, Prof Innocent Ujah, said Hepatitis B is one of the most infectious diseases in the world and a major public health problem.
He said as the world’s eighth biggest killer, viral hepatitis is remarkably neglected. “HBV as a silent killer in our environment; unfortunately, the people’s knowledge of the virus is very faint.
“We as a medical research institute will continue to intensify our research efforts on Hepatitis, especially the conduct of surveys to establish the burden of Hepatitis in Nigeria.“We have a national reference Human Virology Laboratory that provides services to patients from all parts of the country.
“We also recently commenced a Hepatitis clinic in the institute with senior consultant physicians to curb this menace.“We need to create more awareness so that people can go for screening and know their status before it is too late,”he said.
Ujah called on the Federal Government to invest more in health research to prevents disease outbreaks and secure the health of the nation Hepatitis: unknown silent killer disease
Also, Chairman, Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology, SOGHIN, Lagos State chapter, Dr. Charles Onyekwere remarked that .”This debilitating disease kills more than the dreaded HIV/AIDS. But surprisingly, not many people know much about hepatitis. More than 350 million people are infected globally with hepatitis B and more than 150 million people are infected with hepatitis C.
Onyekwere who spoke at a rally and hepatitis test session in Lagos, said in “In Nigeria, up to eight per cent of our population are infected with hepatitis B and up to four percent are infected with hepatitis C, hence the need to create awareness on the causative organism of this disease and to let people know about and how to prevent the disease.
“Let us think about people who do not know what causes hepatitis and let us think again about what we need to do to ensure that our people get information on the killer disease,” Onyekwere added.
Onyekwere said there are two aspects of curbing the disease: “One is the reservoir- people who are infected. You’ve already given me the statistics, with ‘C’ at about three million and ‘B’, close to 18- 20 million.”