Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The President, Nigerian Commission Hepatitis Zero Representative to African Union (AU), Dr Mike Omotosho, has attributed the increasing number of Hepatitis B and C cases to certain cultural and lifestyle practices, notably circumcision, tribal marks, body scarification and piercing.
He explained that viral hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in Nigeria, and eliminating hepatitis by 2030, as earmarked in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), will require enduring innovation, better access to medicines, and improved health services.
Dr Omotoso, who addressed reporters in Abuja on Monday, on the 2020 World Hepatitis Day, with the global theme “Hepatitis Free Future”, registered his displeasure with the fact that the level of knowledge of viral hepatitis remains low amongst Nigerians, despite it being a leading cause of death and claiming the lives of many each year.
‘The prevalence of hepatitis on a global scale is staggering as World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that more than 325 million people live with viral hepatitis B and C, with an estimated 2.8 million people infected in 2018 alone,’ he said.
‘Regrettably, most people living with hepatitis lacked access to testing and vaccination which are preventive measures, and now lack access to treatment.
‘Most of the 17-21 million Nigerians estimated to be living with viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.’
Meanwhile, data from the Federal Ministry of Health indicates that Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest levels of viral hepatitis with a prevalence of 11 per cent of Hepatitis B and 2.2 per cent of Hepatitis C.
The data also indicates that male to female distribution varies, with children not spared, while cases of viral hepatitis are most commonly found among the age group of 21 to 40 years.
WHO had recommended that more people should have access to hepatitis C testing and curative treatment, and also global health communities should come together to officially begin moving towards the elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030.