Commission calls for national screening programme to eradicate hepatitis
The Hepatitis Zero Commission Nigeria has decried the increasing incidence of hepatitis B and C infections in the country and called for a National screening programme to ensure that hepatitis is eradicated in the country.
An estimated two billion people have been infected with HBV of which approximately 240 million are chronically infected with HBV globally while about 20 million Nigerians are chronically infected by the disease.
President of Hepatitis Zero Commission Nigeria, Dr. Mike Omotosho who made the call in Abuja observed that viral hepatitis is an international public health challenge, comparable to other major communicable diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria stressing that despite the significant burden it places on communities across all global regions, hepatitis has been largely ignored as a health and development priority until recently.
He said ‘’It will no longer remain hidden, however, with the adoption of the resolution on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Target 3 is of particular relevance: it calls for specific action to combat viral hepatitis. Nigeria is estimated to have one of the highest cases of Hepatitis B in the world at 12.2 per cent which translates to about 20 -30 million persons affected by the Hepatitis virus. The country is also bedeviled by the other forms of Hepatitis virus such as Hepatitis A and C and more recently Hepatitis E especially in the North-Eastern region as reported by WHO in 2017’’.
Omotosho explained that Hepatitis B infection is a vaccine-preventable disease transmitted through infected blood, semen, and other body fluids while HBV is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV with several modes of transmission; such as perinatal transmission from infected mother to child, unsafe sexual intercourse, transfusion of HBV-infected blood and blood products, unsafe medical procedures, sharing of needles and sharps and horizontally between children, as well as other intra-familial sources of infection.
He lamented that in Nigeria, Hepatitis is treated as an opportunistic infection that is common among HIV/AIDS patients and as such, it is not given the needed attention as a public health concern among the general population hence the low knowledge about hepatitis in Nigeria.
Omotosho who called for deliberate efforts by relevant stakeholders to eradicate hepatitis, stressed on the need for an effective advocacy, awareness, provision of counselling, viral screening, vaccination , referrals and treatment in an equitable manner, in order to ensure Zero transmission of hepatitis cases in the country by 2030.
Also speaking , Chairman Board of Advisors, Prof Rotimi Jaiyesinii said itimportant that for Nigeria to identify those who have these viruses through a screening programme which the Nigerian Commission of the Hepatitis Zero project has started.
He stressed the need to set up a registry of people presently diagnosed with hepatitis would enable us provide the necessary treatment, monitoring and emotional support required.
He noted that there is a safe and effective vaccine that offers a 98-100% protection against hepatitis B.
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