Mega Lifesciences Nigeria has taken its hepatitis awareness campaign to twenty hospitals across the nation while also screening patients in the hospitals for the disease. This was part of its activities to mark this year’s World Hepatitis Day.
The campaign, which took place on July 26-27, 2013 provided ample awareness and screening for thousands of patients at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH); General Hospital, Lagos; General Hospital,Ikorodu; Ado Ekiti Teaching Hospital; General Hospital,Ijebu Ode; Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital;Dalhatu Arab Specialist Hospital, Lafia; University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), among others.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. ManeeshMehra, managing director, Mega Lifesciences Nigeria Limited, said the company embarked on the initiative, as a means of performing its corporate social responsibility to benefit citizens of the country where it operates, as well as to improve their health status.
Commending the initiative, Mrs Caroline Dada, chief nursing officer (CNO), Gastro OPD, LASUTH, explained that hepatitis is a more deadly disease than HIV/AIDS, and it has no symptoms.
“Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, and we have various types, such as Hepatitis B, V, and A. Their causative organisms are different.The deadly virus that infects people is called Hepatitis V virus. The cause is unknown, and it is deadlier than HIV virus because HIV causes AIDS, while HPV causes hepatitis. It spreads through contaminated foods, water, blood transfusion from an infected person and other blood contacts with an infected person. Hepatitis B is more prevalent in African countries than the others.”
While urging members of the public to avail themselves of the general screening, the CNO counseled that it is better to prevent the disease than seek to cure it. She added that it would cost between half a million and a million naira to cure a patient of hepatitis B.
“Maintenance of a good hygienic system, coupled with a good lifestyle, is paramount in the prevention of hepatitis. Adults who are yet to be immunised against the disease should go for HPV immunisation, which will last for five years; while children from 0-2 years must take HPV 1, HPV2 and HPV 3; and adults who are yet to be immunised against the disease must take the HPV immunisation for five years. However, everybody should go for screening, to know his or her status, so that they can be treated accordingly,” she said.
Mr SSN Raju, marketing manager, Mega Lifesciences Ltd, and members of his team at the GH Lagos, screening patients of hepatitis
Also providing insight on the disease, Dr. Rufina Igetel, consultant hepatologist, LASUTH, in an exclusive interview, noted that over three hundred million people are infected with hepatitis B all over the world. Coming down to African countries and Nigeria in particular, she said although there are no specific data on Nigeria, an estimated12 percent of the Sub-Saharan region’s population is infected with hepatitis B virus.
“Based on the division according to the epidemiology, we have a very high prevalence in this part of the world, in the Sub-Saharan African, and South East Asia.Close to 12 percent of the population is infected with hepatitis B virus. We are very concerned about it because some of our patients are chronic carriers, or those who have been chronically infected with the virus. Many of them do not accept it, they may not be aware, and they are capable of transmitting it to other people,” she said.
On the mode of transmitting the disease, the hepatologist further explained, “We know the ways the virus is being transmitted, usually through the same route as HIV/AIDS, to simplify matters: people who are in the habit of sharing sharp objects, like common clippers at the barbers’, even in the house, family members who share sharp objects like razor blade, shaving sticks and, sometimes, tooth brushes among children.”
She said other means of transmitting the virus are through indiscriminate use of needles by quacks in pharmacies, traditional pedicure, thosewho go to the salon to fix weave-on, and so on. “Some of those salons still share needles among their clients;only few salons dispose their needles after usage. These subtle ways of spreading these diseases are very dangerous because the carriers may not have symptoms and they may not be aware of their status, and what you are ignorant of, you can’t do anything about.In the long run, what we are afraid of is the damage to the liver. It is possible for the liver to be damage through chronic inflammation, which is not treated in time. And when the liver is not able to cope anymore, then majority of the liver cells is damaged.”
While emphasising the importance of hepatitis awareness campaigns, she said, “Over the years, since we started the awareness campaign, due to some level of collaboration between us and some organisations, we have some corporate bodies that screen their employees before employing them;and we have had people who are asymptomatic; and they still benefit from monitoring and treatment, before its gets to the level where the liver is damaged.”
LawalOlanrewaju, a beneficiaryof theMega Lifesciences campaign and screening,who is also a record officer at the General Hospital Lagos, said the initiative was awelcome development.“The screening is very good because it will enable people to know their status, and if one is positive, he will know how to go about it. I want to thank the company organising this free screening because, as at last year, the screening costs two thousand naira in the laboratory, and I guess the price will be higher than that now.”
Also expressing her appreciation, another beneficiary, Serifat Olaojo, who tested negative to the screening, said the organisers of the screening were doing a great job. She urged the company to organize more screening exercises for other types of illnesses.