As Nigeria joins the rest of the world in celebrating the World Hepatitis Day, which is usually marked on every July 28, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on all policy-makers, health workers and the public across the globe expedite action on awareness campaign in order to prevent infection and death from hepatitis.
A release from the health apex body today described viral hepatitis as a group of infectious diseases known as hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E , which affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide, causing acute and chronic liver disease and killing close to 1.5 million people every year, mostly from hepatitis B and C. These infections can be prevented, but most people don’t know how.
The theme for this year’s campaign being: “Prevent hepatitis – know the risks,” it is amazing to know that 400 million people are living with hepatitis B and C worldwide, while 1.4 million die due to these infections every year and many more become newly infected. Transmission of this virus can be prevented through better awareness and services that improve vaccinations, blood and injection safety, and reduce harm.
According to the release, the annual campaign, “aims not only to raise awareness among the general public and infected patients, but also to urgently promote improved access to hepatitis services, particularly prevention interventions, by policymakers”.
Speaking recently on the disease, Dr Paul John from Port Harcourt said about 23 million Nigerians are infected with Hepatitis B, making Nigeria one of the countries with the highest Hepatitis infection in the world since about 400 million people in the world are living with either Hepatitis B or C . And more unfortunate is the fact that just only Hepatitis B virus is about 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV. Despite this mind-boggling data, the disease has attracted very little attention from both the government and the people of Nigeria.
In a similar development, the Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria, SOGHIN, has urged all Nigerians to get screened for the disorder.In a statement, the Publicity Secretary, SOGHIN, Dr. Uchenna Ijemo said every Nigeria should pay attention to efforts to control the disease. “We are advocating a two-point key strategy – to promote prevention and show support for hepatitis-positive persons.
“SOGHIN urges Nigerians to pay attention to key preventive messages including knowing the risks including unsafe blood, unsafe injections, sharing of sharps including drug injection equipment can all result in hepatitis.”
Ijemo further advised all Nigerians to demand safe injections, whenever they have the need for it. “About two million people contact hepatitis from unsafe injections. Using sterile single use disposable syringes can prevent these infections. “Approximately 8 billion injections are given unnecessarily globally and unnecessary injections increase the risks.”
She however noted the importance of vaccinating children against the disease, urging mothers to take the pain in ensuring their children are immunized as at when due.