As Nigerians join the global community in commemorating the 2022 World Hepatitis Day, usually marked on every 28 of July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on national leaders, to reduce new infections of Hepatitis B and C by 90 per cent, as well as reduce hepatitis related deaths from liver cirrhosis and cancer by 65 per cent.
The apex health institution also called for the early detection of Hepatitis B and C, urging for the early diagnosis of at least 90 per cent of people with Hepatitis B and C virus, while ensuring that at least 80 per cent of those eligible receive appropriate treatment.
This was contained in a press release issued by the WHO, in celebrating the global day.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. There are five main types of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people globally, and together are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and viral hepatitis-related deaths.
Addressing pressmen recently, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, estimated that about 20 million Nigerians are infected with viral hepatitis, as the condition remains a disease of public health importance, with the mortality rate from both infections still alarming despite global progress made in addressing it.
He noted that Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated food, water, poor hygiene and close contact with carriers of the virus, while Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through blood, sexual intercourse, bodily fluids, kissing, sharing syringes and blades and touching wounds of infected persons.
Ehanire however called for increased awareness, reporting, diagnosis and treatment of Hepatitis B and C, as awareness is currently low in the country.
Themed : “Bringing hepatitis care closer to you”, the WHO admonished national leaders on the need to improve care and bring facilities closer to the people.
The statement reads in part: “WHO is highlighting the need for bringing hepatitis care closer to the primary health facilities and communities so that people have better access to treatment and care, no matter what type of hepatitis they may have.
“The world is currently facing a new outbreak of unexplained acute hepatitis infections affecting children. WHO, together with scientists and policymakers in affected countries, are working to understand the cause of this infection that does not appear to belong to any of the known 5 types of hepatitis viruses: A,B,C,D, and E.
“This new outbreak brings focus on thousands of acute viral hepatitis infections that occur among children, adolescents and adults every year. Most acute hepatitis infections cause mild disease and even go undetected. But in some cases, they can lead complications and be fatal. In 2019 alone, an estimated 78 000 deaths occurred worldwide due to complications of acute hepatitis A to E infections”.
The release further stated that global efforts prioritize the elimination of the Hepatitis infections B, C and D infections. Unlike acute viral hepatitis, these 3 infections cause chronic hepatitis that lasts for several decades and culminate in over 1 million deaths per year from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
These 3 types of chronic hepatitis infections are responsible for over 95 per cent of hepatitis deaths. While we have the guidance and tools to diagnose, treat, and prevent chronic viral hepatitis, these services are often out of reach of communities and are sometimes only available at centralised/specialised hospitals.