Wednesday, 29 July 2020

WORLD HEPATITIS DAY 2020: Almost 20 million Nigerians living with Hepatitis B - Medical practitioner

Ukpa Ewa | 28th July, 2020

AKWA:AKWA: A medical practitioner and Executive Secretary of Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA) Dr. Simeon Onyemaechi has disclosed that more than 20 million people in Nigeria are living with Hepatitis B and C, stating that early detection and treatment is key to its effective management. 

Dr. Onyemaechi who made this known today, in Akwa, the capital city of Anambra state during the 2020 commemoration event of World Hepatitis Day, added that a lot of people are healthy carriers of the disease as many do not avail themselves for rapid testing. Stating that screening and early detection was the only way to tackle the disease. 

"Hepatitis B and C in certain regions of the world are endemic diseases. People should check to know their hepatitis B and C status just like the screen for HIV/AIDS regularly". He said.

Speaking on the types and symptom management of Hepatitis, Dr. Onyemaechi stated that hepatitis which is an inflammation of the liver cells could be caused by microorganisms like viruses, chemicals like drugs, and alcohol among others. He stated that of viral hepatitis, A and E have acute course, and are enteric viruses contracted by the ingestion of contaminated food and water.
He mentioned that hepatitis B and C lead to chronic disease in millions of people globally and is the most common cause of liver inflammation and cancer which usually occur through contact with infected blood and body fluids.

Dr. S. B. Onyemaechi
Executive Secretary, Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA)

He maintained that symptoms of the disease included: fatigue, dark urine, abdominal pain, pale stool, unexplained weight loss, jaundice (yellowing of the eyes), and feeling of ill health. 

Dr. Onyemaechi also decried that chronic hepatitis management was a big challenge because people do not detect it early as the symptoms were subtle to develop.
He, however, advocates for vaccination as a primary prevention measure, while emphasizing the need for early diagnosis and treatment as the key to cutting the transmission of the virus in the population. 

"Regular sensitization and awareness creation are needed for people to avoid risky behaviors as the government was partnering with donor agencies in curbing it ". 

It is worthy to note that World Hepatitis Day is commemorated yearly on the 28th of July. This year's theme is "Find the missing millions". The event usually is to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes a range of health problems, including liver cancer. According to studies, nearly 1.3 million deaths occur annually due to viral hepatitis worldwide, with 300 million people living with the disease, unaware of their infection status. There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus: A, B, C, D, and E.  

Together, hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year which occurs mostly in men and Adults of reproductive age.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, viral hepatitis continues to claim thousands of lives every day.