Nigeria: 30 Million Nigerians Infected With Hepatitis Virus

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Hepatitis, anatomical
19 September 2019

The Hepatitis Zero Nigerian Commission, a Global Eradication Project initiative, has said that Nigeria is estimated to have the highest cases of Hepatitis B in the World at 12.2 per cent which translates to about 20 to 30 million infected by the virus.

The president of the World Hepatitis Eradication Nigeria Commission, Dr Mike Omotosho said this yesterday at a press conference held in Abuja.

Dr Omotosho said viral hepatitis is an international public health challenge, comparable to other major communicable diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Despite the significant burden it places on communities across all global regions, hepatitis has been largely ignored as a health and development priority until recently.

"It will no longer remain hidden, however, with the adoption of the resolution on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Target 3 is of particular relevance: it calls for specific action to combat viral hepatitis.

"Hepatitis B infection is a vaccine-preventable disease transmitted through infected blood, semen, and other body fluids.

"Hepatitis B Virus is 50-100 times more infectious than HIV with several modes of transmission; such as perinatal transmission from infected mother to child, unsafe sexual intercourse, transfusion of HBV-infected blood and blood products, unsafe medical procedures, sharing of needles and sharps and horizontally between children, as well as other intra-familial sources of infection."

He explained that Hepatitis C infection is a blood borne virus 10 times more infectious than HIV with no currently available vaccine.

The most common modes of transmission are through HCV- infected blood, unsafe medical procedures, and sharing of needles and sharps. Less common modes of transmission are sexual and perinatal transmission.

He noted that In Nigeria, Hepatitis is treated as an opportunistic infection that is common among HIV/AIDS patients and as such, it is not given the needed attention as a public health concern among the general population, hence the low knowledge about Hepatitis in Nigeria. 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 MDAs make conscious effort to create awareness about Hepatitis as a standalone ailment.

He further said that the Hepatitis Zero Commission is focused on advocacy for hepatitis prevention and treatment to achieve zero cases in Nigeria as a contribution to the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, and the World Health Organisation's (WHO) June 2016 global health sector strategy, owing to the public health burden that hepatitis represent.

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