By Doris Obinna
Statistics show that 1.4 million persons die annually from viral hepatitis, 400 million persons are living with viral hepatitis the world over with 100 million in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria has 20 million people living with hepatitis; Kano State has the highest rate of infection in Nigeria followed by Gombe and Kwara States respectively!
Speaking at 24th Annual General Meeting/Scientific Conference of the Guild of Medical Directors, in Abuja on the theme: “Let’s Make Nigeria Hepatitis Free.” Dr Chukwuma Anyaike said, “The prevalence rate is highest within the most productive years of the population, 21-40 age range while highest transmission rate is from mother to child. Others are sharing of sharp objects, child-to-child transmission during play, blood transfusion and sex. The virus is made more deadly by its ability to survive on a contaminated surface outside the body of a carrier for at least one month, unlike HIV which has a shorter life span.”
Anyaike disclosed that the Federal Government is doing all it can to stem the tide by establishing a National Hepatitis Control Programme; inaugurating a Technical Working Group on Control of Viral Hepatitis and developing a National Policy for Control of Viral Hepatitis which was adopted by the 36 states and the FCT at the National Conference on Health in 2013.
“Other measures include awareness creation, safe and effective vaccination, scaling up strategies for blood screening, safe injection practices, safer sex and continuous training of care givers as well as the production of National Policy Guidelines and Ethics on the programme; and a National Health Survey on Viral Hepatitis which is still in its planning stages,” he said.
According to him, the World Health Organisation has kick-started programmes geared towards eliminating the scourge by 2030.
Minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, represented by Dr. Joe Amedu, Director of Health Services stated that whereas other infectious and non-communicable diseases have acute symptoms that can easily call for attention, hepatitis is a silent ailment which causes severe damage to the liver; chronic liver disease, liver cancer and ultimately, death. “The conference is appropriate as it will create the necessary awareness on the menace of viral hepatitis. This will in no small measure reduce the dangers associated with lack of knowledge of hepatitis and prevent it from reaching epidemic levels like meningitis and Ebola virus.”