A Public Health Specialist, National AIDS/STIS Control Programme (NASCP) Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Clement Adesigbin says funding and political will are vital in eliminating viral Hepatitis in the country.
He told the press in Abuja that the two factors would encourage Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), pharmaceutical and medical companies to support government in combating the disease.
The specialist said that the vision of NASCP was to eliminate viral hepatitis in Nigeria, explaining that there were plans to collaborate with World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners to engender preventive intervention of viral hepatitis.
He noted that “vaccination is the best way to prevent Hepatitis.
However, good hand hygiene, improved sanitation and increased food safety can also help.”
He defined Hepatitis as inflammation of the liver, commonly caused by viral infection, but there are other possible causes of the disease, such as autoimmune Hepatitis that occurs as secondary result of medication, toxins and alcohol.
He said there are five types of Hepatitis, namely Hepatitis A, B, C D and E, adding that Hepatitis A is caused by an infection with the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV).
He explained that Hepatitis B is transmitted through contact with infectious body fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions or semen containing the Hepatitis B virus and from an infected mother to her baby at birth.
He said people could also become infected through injection, drug use, unsterile medical equipment and sexual contact.
Hepatitis B, he added, could start as a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, chronic illness and if infected at birth or during early childhood, people are more likely to develop chronic infection, which can lead to liver cirrhosis or even liver cancer.
He said “getting vaccine is the most effective way to prevent Hepatitis B.
WHO recommends that all infants receive the Hepatitis B vaccine as soon as possible after birth, followed by two to three additional shots.”
Adesigbin said that Hepatitis C virus could be spread through contact with blood from an infected person or through sharing equipment used to prepare and inject drugs and through unsafe medical injections and other medical procedures.
“Hepatitis C can also spread, although rarely, from an infected mother to her child at birth. It can cause both acute and chronic infections.”
He said that a significant number of those who were chronically infected would develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
He added that with new treatment, over 90 per cent of people with Hepatitis C could be cured within two to three months, reducing the risk of death from liver cancer and cirrhosis.
He, however, advised that the first step for people living with Hepatitis C to benefit from treatments was to get tested and linked to care.
The public health specialist said that Hepatitis D virus could spread through contact with infected blood also, that only occured in people who were already infected.
On Hepatitis E, he said it was spread mainly through contaminated drinking water, saying that pregnant women infected with Hepatitis E were at high risk of mortality from the infection.
He said many people with Hepatitis would generally not have any symptoms, stating, however, that infected persons would experience dark urine, stomach pain, yellowing of skin or eyes, pale or clay-colored stool, low-grade fever, loss of appetite and fatigue.
He added that “those infected with Hepatitis A or B may also have achy joints” and advised prompt medical attention for treatment and curtail spread.
He emphasised the need for awareness by government, CSOs and partners on preventive measures, symptoms, as well as where to access help, not forgetting improved funding, provision of facilities and manpower and the political will to curb its spread.