Over 22 million Nigerians live with hepatitis, says expert

Over 22 million Nigerians are believed to be living with the virus that causes hepatitis, a deadly disease affecting the liver in human beings.

Most times, the disease does not present symptoms in time but the liver is severely damaged by the time it begins to manifest itself, according to experts.

Nseabasi Ekanem, a pharmacologist and director of Trinity Healthcare Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), who stated this in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital during an advocacy and public enlightenment campaign on the disease lamented that many Nigerians were not aware of the disease.

The advocacy and awareness campaign was organised in the state for the first time to mark the 2018 World Hepatitis Day which was celebrated last Saturday.

He said that the theme, “Finding the Missing Millions” was apt to create awareness to the millions of people who have no knowledge about Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

“We are doing advocacy and public enlightenment campaign on Hepatitis B and C and other forms of viral hepatitis to mark the World Hepatitis Day with symposium tagged, “Finding the Missing Millions”.

“The reason we adopt this theme for this year is because, there are millions of Nigerian with others in the world that are living with Hepatitis B and C and other forms of viral hepatitis without even knowing. So this year we have decided to go in search of the missing millions.

“This is an opportunity to get people screened to know their status, vaccinated and get treated so that they can get rid of the virus. This is a strategic plan to get rid of the virus by the year 2020,” Ekanem said.

He expressed regret that there has been no concerted effort by governments, NGOs and philanthropic organisations to fight the virus towards its elimination.

“The reason hepatitis B does not present itself on time is because the liver has what we called the organ reserved capacity, which gives it the ability to still function even though it is badly damaged.

“That is the reason we are going out to sensitise Nigerians about the virus so that those that have it can start treatment before the liver is badly damaged.”

The symptoms of hepatitis B include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains dark colour urine and stool, yellowing of the eyes and skin and nonspecific rashes around the body, cough, itching and headache, loss appetite and severe fatigue.

According to him, the symptoms most times are closely related to that of malaria adding it is the reason most people living with hepatitis end up treating malaria not knowing that they have viral hepatitis.

While urging the people to be vaccinated and treated, he explained that hepatitis A, B, C, D and E destroy the liver and eventually kill the individual if not diagnosed on time and treated.

He said that if hepatitis is diagnosed in time, medication could be administered; stressing that early testing is the key to eliminating the viral hepatitis.

He explained that hepatitis B is transmitted through unprotected sex, casual sexual intercourse with someone whose status is not known, adding that it could also be transmitted through sharing of sharp objects and blood transfusion.

He also explained that hepatitis B could be transmitted from mother to child, adding that pregnant mothers must always screen for hepatitis B during ante natal to avoid mother to child transmission.

Ekanem called on Akwa Ibom State Government development partners and policy makers to draw up strategic plans towards vaccinating the people on hepatitis B and C and treatment of those who are already carriers.

“From the statistic of today, we have screened and vaccinated over 900 Akwa Ibom residents, even passer-by have also been informed of the hepatitis B and C virus and precautionary measures.

“During our screening, we have discovered quite a number of people who are carriers of the hepatitis B and C virus, this goes to proof that Akwa Ibom is indeed endemic for hepatitis B,” he said.

Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Ifiok Akpan, said that he was very happy to be screened and vaccinated of the hepatitis B and C virus.

My brother, a lot of people don’t know about hepatitis virus, I think it is very necessary for government and health institutions to create greater awareness on the hepatitis virus.

“What they are doing here is very fine, but I can tell you a lot of people don’t know. It is necessary to create more awareness, “Akpan said.



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