By Chioma OBINNA
With about 200,000 annual deaths in Nigeria from Hepatitis infection, experts have harped on the need for testing, treatment and early vaccination of Nigerians to curb the menace which has a current prevalence rate of over 20 per cent.
Speaking during a free hepatitis screening organised by the Medical Women Association of Nigeria, MWAN, experts lament the silent nature of the disease saying that an infected person could live with the disease for up to 25 years without knowing it.
Dr. Gabriel Ogunyemi, of the Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology of Nigeria, SOGHIN, sad: “Though hepatitis vaccination started in developed countries in 1992, it only started in Nigeria in 2005 therefore anybody born before then is at a high risk of getting infected
“Mothers should ensure their children are vaccinated immediately, at four and 24 weeks after birth especially in areas where mother-to-infant spread of the virus is common. Children and adolescents younger than 18 years not previously vaccinated should also receive the vaccine. The complete vaccine series induces protective antibody levels in more than 95 percent of infants, children and young adults. The vaccine protection lasts at least 20 years and is possibly lifelong.
Further, Gabried noted: “Hepatitis B virus is transmitted between people by direct blood to blood contact or semen and vaginal fluid of an infected person. Modes of transmission are the same as those for HIV but the Hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more infectious as it can survive outside the body for at least seven days. During this time, the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine.
“If acute hepatitis is not treated as soon as possible, it can cause chronic liver infection that can later develop into liver cancer, and 90 percent of infants infected during first year of life develop chronic infections while 25 percent adults who become chronically infected during childhood die from liver cancer.”
President, Medical Women Association of Nigeria, MWAN, Dr. Dumebi Owa urged people to pay more attention to personal and environmental hygiene. “Less emphasis should not be placed on treatment but prevention through massive awareness campaigns. There is need to apply those strategies use during election to comb the nucs and crannies of the country in letting our people know about this silent killer that is currently killing our people,” she stated.