By Laide Akinboade
The Federal Government has revealed that over 26 million Nigerians are presently infected with Hepatitis B and C.
Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, stated this at a press briefing to commemorate the 2018 World Hepatitis Day.
He said Nigeria has a prevalence of 11 percent for Hepatitis B and 2.2 percent for Hepatitis C respectively.
This is even as former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, who is Viral Hepaptitis goodwill Ambassador, urged the Federal Government to come up with a National Treatment Programme to tackle viral hepatitis.
Adewole said it is imperative for all hands to be on deck to help the over 300 million infected with the disease.
“It is estimated that about 300 million people are living with viral hepatitis. Most of them may not be aware of this and so we need regular diagnosis to reduce the burden and deaths due to Hepatitis.
“Permit me to add that viral hepatitis is a global infectious disease and worldwide, one in every twelve (12) persons is estimated to be living with the infection. This translates to approximately 292 million people who are actively infected with Hepatitis B virus while 71 million are actively infected with Hepatitis C virus. It is very disheartening that globally, an estimated 1.8 million children under five (5) years have Hepatitis B infection despite the availability of a potent vaccine that could be used to protect children against the virus.
“In 2015, about 1.34 million deaths were recorded from Viral Hepatitis globally; this number is comparable to deaths caused by tuberculosis. It is also higher when compared to deaths caused by HIV/AIDS. I must say that it is sad that while mortality from tuberculosis and HIV is on the decline, the number of deaths from Viral Hepatitis is on the increase as reported in the WHO Report of 2017.
“According to the same WHO report, 22 million Nigerians are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B while roughly 4 million are infected with Hepatitis C. May I inform you that there are other sub-types of the viral agents that are responsible for Hepatitis, such as Hepatitis A Virus and Hepatitis D Virus. However, Hepatitis B and C are responsible for 96% of all mortality due to Viral Hepatitis. Nigeria has a prevalence of 11% for Hepatitis B and 2.2% for Hepatitis C respectively (FMOH, 2013),” Adewole stated.
The Minister said cases of viral hepatitis are more common amongst people between the ages of 21 and 40.
He noted that the risk factors include local circumcision, local uvelectomy, and scarifications on the body. Other predisposing factors include surgical procedures, deliveries that occur at home and blood transfusion.
He reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to eliminate Viral Hepatitis by the year 2030 in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
He lamented the fact that out of the over 300 million people living with viral hepatitis globally, 90 percent of them do not know their status.
“In Nigeria, the knowledge of viral hepatitis remains low even though it is a leading cause of death. As a result, most Nigerians living with Viral Hepatitis B or C are undiagnosed, increasing the likelihood of transmission to others. It also places the individual at the greater risk of severe, even fatal health complications such as liver cirrhosis and liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)”, he said.
Gowon said for Nigeria to properly address the issue of hepatitis, there is need for the federal government and all state governments to give serious consideration to an upward review of the annual budgetary allocation to the federal and states ministries of Health to a benchmark that can reduce the burden of viral hepatitis and inclusion into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to improve the quality and access to medical facilities across the country.