WHO laments high Hepatitis B prevalence among adult in Nigeria

The World Health Organization (WHO), said Nigeria has one of the highest burdens of viral hepatitis with a national hepatitis B (HBV) prevalence rate of 8.1 per cent and hepatitis C (HCV) prevalence rate is 1.1 per cent among adult aged 15 to 64 years in the country.

The WHO, Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, disclosed this to newsmen on Monday in Abuja, to commemorate the 2022 World Hepatitis Day with the theme “Hepatitis Can’t-Wait,” reflecting the urgency.

According to report, Hepatitis is a serious public health concern. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding the disease makes misinformation rampant.

Hepatitis affects millions of people worldwide each year.

The five most common viral hepatitis are A, B, C, D, and E. Recently, the hepatitis G virus was identified. Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated food, water, poor hygiene and close contact with carriers of the virus.

Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through blood, sexual intercourse, bodily fluids, kissing, sharing syringes and blades, and touching wounds of infected persons.

Hepatitis G being the newly discovered viral hepatitis’ route of transmission is no different from that of B, C and D. Studies revealed that hepatitis A and E are acute; last for a short time – less than six months and hepatitis B, C, D and G may progress to chronicity; more than six months.

Symptoms of viral hepatitis start from the absence of symptoms (asymptotic) to mild or moderate features such as jaundice-; yellowish discolouration of the skin and eyes, poor appetite, malaise and progressing to a chronic liver failure.

According to Molumbo: “There is a lack of awareness among the general populace as evidenced by a low uptake of available preventive services”. 

He lamented the high cost of treatment and out-of-pocket payment expenditures been identified as impediments to treatment access for Nigerians to be aware of their status. 

He stated that in recent years, there has been a growing political commitment at the country level.

“By introducing the hepatitis B Birth dose and the pentavalent (DTP-HepB-Hib) vaccine into routine childhood immunization schedule since 2004, Nigeria is contributing to the global achievement of the reduction of hepatitis B infections in children across the country,” he said.

The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire also lamented that despite significant rates of hepatitis B and C infection, there is very low awareness about the infection, under-reporting, under-diagnosed, under-treated, stigma and discrimination of those infected also pose challenges.

Ehanire said that, consequently, nearly 20 million people were living with either hepatitis B or C in the country, which he said still poses public health challenges across the nation.

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