• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Nigeria among 10 countries with highest burden of hepatitis – WHO

Immunisation has saved over 51m lives in Africa – WHO

…highest in Africa with 15.7m infections

Nigeria is among the top 10 countries that account for 80 percent, nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C, according to a new report on global hepatitis published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The list also includes China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and the Russian Federation.

According to the 2024 report published on Tuesday, Nigeria reported a total of 15.7 million hepatitis B and C infections combined in 2022, representing the highest burden in Africa. It is followed by Ethiopia with 8.4 million total infections.

Hepatitis, according to WHO, is an inflammation of the liver that is caused by a variety of infectious viruses and noninfectious agents leading to a range of health problems, some of which can be fatal. There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. Types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and together are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and viral hepatitis-related deaths.

The report highlighted that ensuring access to prevention, diagnosis and treatment in Nigeria and other listed countries with high burdens will enable the global response to the disease to regain the trajectory needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The report stated that viral hepatitis remains a major public health challenge of this decade, and the world is still far from achieving its elimination by 2030.

The report disclosed that the combined, hepatitis B and C cause 3500 deaths every day, and mortality is increasing. An estimated 254 million people are living with hepatitis B and 50 million people are living with hepatitis C worldwide, and 6000 people are newly infected with viral hepatitis each day.

The report further revealed that about 1.3 million people died of viral hepatitis in 2022, while the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million deaths in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022.

Hepatitis B caused 83% of these deaths and hepatitis C 17%. The increase in estimated mortality since 2019 suggests that the number of hepatitis-related cancer cases and deaths is increasing, the report noted.

“Many people remain undiagnosed in many countries, and even when hepatitis is diagnosed, the number of people receiving treatment remains incredibly low,” the report stated.

“Although medicines are available at affordable prices, many countries are still not taking full advantage of these treatments because of policy, programmatic and access barriers,” it added.

The WHO report therefore recommended that access to effective interventions must be urgently expanded to save lives and prevent a future generation of new infections, cancer cases and deaths