Two physicians, on Friday, called for increased awareness of hepatitis in order to stem its tide among Nigerians.
The physicians said in Lagos that hepatitis, which is an inflammatory condition of the liver, was a killer disease.
One of the physicians, Dr. Eke Onwuka, said that a recent Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) report estimated that Nigeria, with an estimated population of 190 million people, had a Hepatitis B prevalence rate of 8.1 percent.
He said that the report showed that Hepatitis C had a 1.1 percent prevalence rate.
According to the physician, hepatitis is commonly caused by a viral infection and other factors, including autoimmune hepatitis and hepatitis that occurs as a secondary effect of medications, drugs, toxins, and alcohol.
“Autoimmune hepatitis is a disease that occurs when one’s body makes antibodies against the liver tissue.
“There are about five strains of the virus, namely: hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis D virus (HDV) and hepatitis E virus (HEV).
“These are responsible for viral hepatitis, which is an inflammation of the liver, due to viral infection.
“While all the strains causing acute hepatitis, only HBV and HCV commonly cause chronic hepatitis, which can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and liver cancer,’’ he said.
The physician noted that hepatitis B, caused by HBV, was responsible for the liver infection, saying that this could be serious.
“Chronic hepatitis B is the world’s leading cause of cirrhosis or liver cancer. It has no cure but it can be prevented by getting the hepatitis B vaccine and having safe sex.
“Hepatitis A doesn’t usually cause permanent damage to the liver but it can cause liver failure.
“There should be more awareness and sensitisation on hepatitis because many people are not aware of it and the disease can kill fast, even before it is detected.
“Many people, who hear hepatitis, do not even know what it is exactly, hence the need to increase advocacy and sensitization, like it is given to HIV/AIDS, cancer, COVID-19 and others,’’ he said.
Also, Dr. Daniel Nze, a Public Health Physician, identified some of the signs and symptoms of acute hepatitis to include fatigue, dark urine, pale stool, flu-like symptoms, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
“Having yellow skin and eye colouration may also be part of the symptoms, although they are also signs of jaundice.
“Chronic hepatitis develops slowly; so these signs and symptoms may not be too obvious,’’ he said.
On precautionary measures, Nze said that practising good hygiene could help to avoid contracting hepatitis A and E.
According to him, hepatitis B, C, and D, which can be contracted through contaminated blood, can be prevented by not sharing toothbrushes, drug needles, razors with others, and touching contaminated blood.
He said that treating hepatitis depended on the type as well as how early it was detected, adding, however, that immunisation and practicing a healthy lifestyle could help.
Nze advised Nigerians to regularly go for hepatitis testing, do regular medical checkups, observe good hygiene, maintain a healthy lifestyle, and immediately consult medical experts if they noticed any of the symptoms and signs.
The World Hepatitis Day is commemorated annually on July 28, and that the theme for this year’s Day is “Hepatitis-free Future,” with a focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns.