As the world marked Hepatitis Day, Health experts including, the assistant Director of Public Health Nursing and, Mrs Grace Adekoya and Dr. Kolawole Akande, from the University College Hospital (UCH) have disclosed that about 20 million Nigerians live with Hepatitis B while about one per cent of the population live with Hepatitis C.
The duo while speaking during screening of 1,000 people for Hepatitis as part of activities to mark the 2019 World Hepatitis Day organized by the Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN), UCH chapter in Ibadan, noted that Hepatitis B was common in Nigeria and that both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C were vaccine preventable.
Quoting from the World Health Organisation’s statistics, Akande said, “Hepatitis C is actually curable and the drugs are available and not expensive while complications in Hepatitis B can be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment.” Akande, a consultant gastroenterologist in the Department of Medicine, UCH, and member of SOGHIN Dr., described Hepatitis B as a silent killer with infected people being unaware unless symptoms arise or discovered through blood test.
He said World Hepatitis Day had been on for quite some time and the responses and awareness have increased. “However, the diagnosis rate for hepatitis is low and a lot of people are living with viral hepatitis without knowing, no one should live with hepatitis without knowing. We need to scale-up screening and diagnosis to reduce the number of people who only discover they live with the viral disease until it is too late and complications like liver cancer and eventual death occur. According to the WHO’s statistics, about 20 million Nigerians are living with Hepatitis B while about one per cent of the population are living with Hepatitis C. Hepatitis B is the commonest in Nigeria” he said.
According to him Hepatitis B and C viruses are vaccine preventable, adding that, “Hepatitis C is actually curable and the drugs are available and not expensive while complications in Hepatitis B can be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment. “This is why we are advocating and encouraging for voluntary screening and increased awareness,” he said. Akande said that there are five types of Hepatitis namely A, B, C, D and E. “Hepatitis A and E are water borne and spread through contaminated water, food vegetables and unhygienic practices. Hepatitis B and C are blood borne; this undiagnosed and untreated viral diseases can result in serious complications that can lead to eventual death,” he said.
Also speaking, Adekoya said Hepatitis B was more infectious than HIV and spreading more easily than HIV. Adekoya said “If an HIV virus drops and there is no fluid to thrive, the virus dies and is not transmitted, however if Hepatitis B virus drops it can still be transmitted even after the blood dries. Hepatitis B has become worrisome because of the increase in number of infected people and low level of awareness unlike HIV,” she said. According to her Hepatitis can be transmitted through local circumcision, incision, tatoo and body piercing, sexual intercourse, unsafe injection use and sharing of needles, clippers and razors.
“Hepatitis is a silent killer that can live in the body for decades without any symptoms. When symptoms finally appear, they signal that the liver itself has been affected, making treatment difficult and could result in liver cirrhosis or cancer and death. This is the reason why it is important to go for screening and know your status, it is vaccine preventable and if a person is infected he or she can be treated,” she said.
However, the World Hepatitis Alliance’s (WHA) global campaign theme was tagged: “Find the Missing Million”, which is a three-year global awareness-raising and advocacy campaign aimed at tackling the main barriers to diagnosis by putting civil society organisations and the affected community at the heart of the solution.