By Fortune Eromosele
Experts drawn from the health sector and non-governmental organisations have raised an alarm over a killer disease ‘Hepatitis,’ that accounts for about 26 million Nigerians living with the virus.
According to them, the disease is said to kill more people than the HIV/AIDS virus and also the coronavirus (COVID-19). David Nwedu, a Public Health Specialist, said the equivalence rate of Hepatitis B in the general public is 11 percent and equivalence of Hepatitis C is 2.2 percent, which he said accounts for over 26 million Nigerians living with the virus.
Nwedu spoke during the Hepatitis eradication project training and outreach programme, organised by the Rotary Club Garki-Abuja Neighbourhood under the umbrella of the Rotary Foundation in Abuja on Wednesday.
He cautioned Nigerians not to take likely, the Hepatitis virus, especially the ‘B’ virus, saying that it is not curable and can cause liver complications.
He said, “Hepatitis is a disease that affects the liver and they are in five groups, A, B, C, D and E. But the most prevalent of the five is Hepatitis B and C. The equivalence rate of Hepatitis B in the general public is 11 percent and equivalence of Hepatitis C is 2.2 percent.
“Now looking at a population of about 200 million people, we are having close to 26 million Nigerians living with the virus who are not even aware that they have the virus. The transmission of the virus is easier to contact than HIV. Because the virus is stubborn and moves through fluids.
“Unlike HIV that cannot exist outside of the blood system, but the Hepatitis virus can survive on an ordinary surface for up to seven days. Within that period it can be transmitted. When we say fluid; saliva, sweat and urine, are deductive transmitting devices, deductive in the sense that there must be conditions for that.
“For instance if somebody is kissing, if they don’t have tear or injuries in their mouth where blood can come out, kissing is safe. But if there is a tear and blood comes out it’s transmittable. Even if it is ingested you can’t contact the virus, but only when the virus comes in contact with blood but the virus can be found on saliva, sweat and urine.”
Nwedu explained that for the Hepatitis B virus, a vaccine is required, which he stated could immune the vaccinated individual for 30 years.
“For Hepatitis B, vaccine is required, which is done three times monthly, and that individual is immune to the virus for 30 years, World Health Organization standard. The other, Hepatitis C doesn’t require a vaccine because it’s curable, preventive measures like, avoiding body fluids of infected person, avoid using sharp objects and maintain personal hygiene, can keep you safe,” he said.
On his part, District Governor of the Federal Capital Territory and 23 other states, Rotarian Ayoola Oyedokun, said many Nigerians are roaming the streets not knowing that they carry the deadly virus . Hence, he urged Nigerians to check their status, stating emphatically that, ‘Hepatitis is not a death sentence.’
His words, “I can tell you specifically that there’s a whole lot of Nigerians that are roaming the streets with this disease called Hepatitis. I can tell for a fact that in Africa there are a whole lot of people that are roaming the streets with hepatitis.
“A lot of these people have not even tested and a lot of them don’t know their status, so if we start estimating that this is the number we won’t be able to reach everybody. Let us reach the citizens of this country, let them be aware about the fact that there’s a disease called Hepatitis that kills faster than AIDS and even the coronavirus that ravaged our nation and the whole world.
“That is why Hepatitis eradication is an important project that Rotary is also embarking upon. And we have over 30 trainees that have commenced training process through a grant of about $30,000 to sensitise them. By training them they would know everything they need to know about Hepatitis, the testing, treatment, and counsel people that are getting tested.
“Hepatitis is not a death sentence, but the most important thing is that you must know your status, to know what treatment to start from if tested positive.”
Director, Rotarian Action Group for Hepatitis Eradication Globally, Oye Oyewo, has notified that Rotary Club is offering free vaccinations and screening at their outreach centres in Chafuyi village Apo and Durunmi village, Abuja, for a period of six days, beginning tomorrow. (Thursday).
“I encourage Nigerians to complete their doses for vaccination. And for people around Abuja, they could come to our outreach centre at Chafuyi village, after Apo mechanic, you will be screened free and vaccinated free, all these have been paid for by the Rotary foundation.
“Like we rightly said, Hepatitis B is preventable with vaccines, that’s why we are going out with vaccines free of charge to give people tomorrow and the next day. For people that have hepatitis C, it is treatable with pills,” he stressed.
On the essence of the project, President, Rotary Club Garki-Abuja Neighbourhood, Solomon Okoh, said, “We are here to execute a hepatitis project and this is in collaboration with rotary international. We have trained 30 people for three days.
“The essence of this project is in line with focus from Rotary International and today we are taking disease prevention and treatment. It has enough impact because hepatitis is a killer disease that people are not aware of, we are here to impact.”