30 Million Nigerians are Infected with Hepatitis Virus, Says Commission

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Hepatitis Zero Commission Nigeria has raised alarm over the looming health danger posed by the uncontrolled spread of hepatitis in the country, noting that between 20 to 30 million Nigerians are infected by the virus

President of the commission, Dr. Mike Omotosho said out of the 20 million Nigerians estimated to be chronically infected with the deadly Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), children were most infected.

According to him, hepatitis BV was 50-100 times more infectious than HIV with several modes of transmission.

He also said globally, Nigeria has the highest cases of infection accounting for 20 to 30 million persons affected by the hepatitis virus.

Omotosho, who made this known while briefing newsmen in Abuja recently, lamented that although hepatitis B which presently has no cure was vaccine preventable, it was not getting the needed attention as a public health concern especially among the citizenry.

He said: “Studies have shown that hepatitis B is common among children in Nigeria while A and C are common among young people.

“Not many civil society organisations and government agencies make conscious effort to create awareness about hepatitis as a standalone ailment and the awareness creation activities conducted during the celebration of World. Hepatitis Day is not enough to bring about the desired result.”

According to him, hepatitis C, a blood borne virus which was 10 times more infectious than HIV with no preventable vaccine or cure and hepatitis A, were more common in young adults.

In his words: “Globally, it is estimated that two billion people have been infected with HBV of which approximately 240 million are chronically infected with HBV. Among those with chronic HBV, up to 30 per cent go on to develop liver disease.

“The average prevalence rate for HBV in Nigeria ranges between 11- 13.7 per cent with an estimated 20 million Nigerians chronically infected.

“There is no known virologic cure for HBV infection, however antiviral treatment has been shown to reduce the transmission risk, decrease the likelihood of developing liver complications resulting in death and improve prognosis.

“Nigeria is estimated to have one of the highest cases of hepatitis B in the world at 12.2 percent 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 Northeastern region as reported by WHO in 2017.”

He said that in Nigeria, hepatitis was treated as an opportunistic infection common among HIV/AIDS patients and as such, it was not given the needed attention as a public health concern.

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.