By Joseph Erunke and Fortune Eromosele – Abuja
The Hepatitis Zero Nigerian Commission, yesterday, revealed that over 21 million persons live with the viral hepatitis infection in Nigeria.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja, Dr. Mike Omotosho, President Hepatitis Zero Nigerian Commission, described as staggering the prevalence of Hepatitis, adding that the World Health Organization, estimates more than 325 million people live with viral hepatitis B and C, with an estimated 2.8 million people being infected in 2018 alone.
Omotosho however, expressed worry over the limited level of knowledge regarding the viral hepatitis amongst Nigerians, despite the fact that it is a leading infectious cause of death and claims the lives of many each year.
According to him, “ As a consequence, most of the 21 million Nigeria’s estimated to be living with viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe even fatal complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.
“According to the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest burden of viral hepatitis with a prevalence of 11% of hepatitis B and 2.2% of Hepatitis C. across the country, male to female distribution varies and children are not spared. Cases of viral hepatitis are most commonly found among the age group of 21 to 40 years.”
He noted that in Nigeria there is a strong relationship between HBV infection and various forms of Chronic Liver Disease, CLD, including chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.
Furthermore, he said, the risk factors in Nigeria include; local circumcision, local uvelectomy and scarification on the body, tribal marks, surgical procedures, body piercing, delivery at home and receiving a blood transfusion.
Speaking in the same vein, Dr Akudo Ikpeazu, Coordinating Director, National Agency for the Control of Aids, NACA, stated that the Hepatitis virus should be of great concern to everyone as it claims lives daily.
She said, “We estimate that about 18 million people are living with hepatitis in Nigeria, for hepatitis B we estimate for about 16 million and for hepatitis C about 2.2 million.
“So this a course for great concern for us, for those of us who work in HIV program there’s a lot of co-infection for hepatitis and HIV so it really is a big health problem, but the question is what have we done.
“One of the very quick things that the government did, Nigeria launched a formal program, the National Strategic Plan for the Control of Viral Hepatitis in Nigeria. It clearly enunciates what we are doing as a country and what we expect all the partners who work in that area to put hands together to work.”
“We’ve got over a thousand health workers trained across the country using a public health approach to ensure that hepatitis is managed at the facility level. Nigeria is one of the countries that has achieved 59% for vaccination,” she added.
Also speaking, the Director-General, National Orientation Agency, Dr Garba Abari said the primary duty of the agency, is to ensure that Nigerians are fully briefed and aware of the alarming dangers the hepatitis virus poses.
The DG who was ably represented by Mrs Mette Edekob, Director, Special Duties & State Operations, SDSO, said “Ours is to ensure that every Nigerian knows the danger of hepatitis B, C and A and we have done that.
“Since this partnership commenced, every state director of the NOA every chief, orientation and mobilization officer of the NOA has been informed and are directly in touch with this commission to ensure that whatever information concerning hepatitis that these officers are able to tell Nigerians and also answer question. We are the mobilizers, we pass information and so we must also have the right information to pass.
“And so I will assure that we’ve been told on what to say to Nigerians, how to say it and what answers to give when such question arrive. I want to assure you that we will do everything in our power in partnership with the relevant authorities to make it a zero disease in Nigeria.”