Cross River’s Health Commissioner, Dr Betta Edu, has decried the low turn-out of residents of the state for its week-long hepatitis free testing and vaccination programme just ended.
Edu who expressed her dissatisfaction in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Calabar on Thursday, said the ministry had an outreach for one week in its facility but had a very low turnout.
“We had an outreach for one week in our facility and we had quite a low turn-out of people to get tested and vaccinated, despite its being free of charge.
“Right now, we are sending the team into the field to reach out to more people beyond the urban centres.
“So, we encourage every resident of the state to get tested, know his or her status and take the vaccine free of charge, as soon as possible to protect himself or herself.
“I want to debunk the myth that the vaccine is to reduce our population. Hepatitis vaccine does not kill.
“I have taken it myself and it is safe and helpful to everyone to prevent the disease,” she said.
Meanwhile, Mrs Ekaite Obase, the Focal Person for Viral Hepatitis in the state Ministry of Health has said that about 20 million people across the world have chronic hepatitis infection.
Obase said that 1.4 million people died annually from the viral infection which is the inflammation of the liver.
She said Nigeria had a prevalence rate of 8.1 per cent for viral hepatitis B, and 1.1 per cent for viral hepatitis C.
“The prevalence rate is high and ignorance in the nation and Cross River is creating a huge gap, because many people are living with the disease without knowing it.
“Hepatitis B and C are 50 to 100 times more infectious than the Human Immune Virus (HIV), though they have similar modes of transmission.
“So, as our team goes to the field, residents of the state should get tested.
“Hepatitis is preventable and curable. We refer every person who tests positive to the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH),” she said.