As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Hepatitis Day, the President, Hepatitis Zero Nigeria Commission, Dr. Mike Omotosho, has said that hepatitis kills more people globally than COVID-19.
Omotosho, who stated this during a press briefing to commemorate this year’s World Hepatitis Day, theme: “Hepatitis Free Future” held yesterday in Abuja, expressed worry that despite that the disease is more deadly than COVID 19, a lot of people do not know their status.
According to him, the level of knowledge of viral hepatitis remains low amongst Nigerians despite the fact that it is a leading infectious cause of death and claims the lives of many each year.
He said as a consequence, 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, adding that viral hepatitis is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in Nigeria.
Omotosho also worried that most people living with hepatitis lacked access to testing and vaccination which are preventive measures, and now lack access to treatment.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest burden of viral hepatitis with a prevalence of 11 per cent of Hepatitis B and 2.2 per cent of Hepatitis C.
“Across the country, the male to female distribution varies and children are not spared. Cases of viral hepatitis are most commonly found among the age group of 21 to 40 years.
“In Nigeria, there is a strong relationship between HBV infection and various forms of Chronic Liver Disease [CLD], including chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma,” said Omotosho.
He identified the overall risk factors in the country to include local circumcision, local uvelectomy, and scarification on the body, tribal marks, surgical procedures, body piercing, delivery at home and receiving blood transfusion.
“As scaring as COVID 19, there is actually another disease that kills more people than COVID. hepatitis actually kills more people than COVID. Almost 500 million people globally surfer hepatitis and out of these numbers, 1.4 million die every year globally, meaning that about 4000 people die from hepatitis and it’s related illness daily. Hepatitis is a silent killer.”
The president however stated that unlike COVID, hepatitis has vaccine – even though not all, and unlike COVID, hepatic has cure – even though not all eventually result in permanent cure.
According to him, eliminating hepatitis by 2030 as contained in the SDGs, will require enduring innovation, better access to medicines, and improved health services.
On her part, the National Coordinator, NASCP, Dr. Akudo Ikpeazu, said in 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) put hepatitis on the map as a main public health issue, and Nigeria as a county has instituted a national programme.
She said that the programme, which has been domiciled in the Aids and STI programme in the ministry of health, aims to drive the country’s response for hepatitis.
World Hepatitis Day is commemorated on 28 July every year.
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