By Vincent Ujumadu
NO fewer than 20 million Nigerians are believed to be on the hepatitis death list, with the country contributing significantly to the global chronic viral hepatitis infection.
Anambra State Commissioner for Health, Dr Vincent Okpala, who gave the figure when members of the Rotary Club, Awka, paid him a courtesy call in commemoration of this year’s Hepatitis Day, described Hepatitis C as 10 times more infectious than HIV and has no vaccine.
He said apart from the fact that hepatitis has no vaccine, the most disturbing aspect of the ailment was that most people live with it for years without knowing.
According to him, Nigeria had the prevalence rate of 11% and 2.2% for viral Hepatitis B and C respectively, adding that the percentage corresponds with the over 20 million people living with the virus in a population of about 198 million, who are at the risk of developing chronic complications of liver cirrhosis and primary liver cell cancers.
Okpala said: “Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer and lives will continue to be lost. Every single day, thousands of people are newly infected with Hepatitis yet viral Hepatitis B is entirely preventable.”
He listed some of the modes of transmitting viral Hepatitis B and C to include contact with infectious blood, semen and other bodily fluids.
Others means of contracting the disease, he added, were through birth from a Hepatitis B-infected mother, sexual contact with a Hepatitis B-infected person, sharing needles, syringes or drug paraphernalia and tattooing.
While commending Rotary Club for its role in reducing diseases in society, Okpala noted that the fight against hepatitis was everyone’s responsibility, explaining that the state would collaborate with the club in conducting free screening for civil servants and traders at the Bridge Head Drug Market in Onitsha.