Awka – About 10 million Nigerians infected with Hepatitis B and C, are not able to access life-saving treatment for the sickness, as a result of their ignorance.
The number represents about 50 percent of the total 20 million Nigerians who are infected with the disease.
This is according to a resident doctor at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Amaku-Awka, Dr Obinna Anagboso who spoke with TNC correspondent in Awka.
Hepatitis otherwise known as inflammation of the liver, is commonly caused by a viral infection, but there are also other possible causes of hepatitis.
World Hepatitis Day, observed on July 28 every year, aims to raise global awareness of hepatitis, a group of infectious diseases known as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, and encourage prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
According to Dr Anagboso, the disease is usually very intense and often leads to death because the attack is on the liver which is a very important organ in the body.
“The liver as a vital organ of the body, serves very important functions which include metabolism of drugs and other substances with the excretion, reproduction of bile which aids the excretion of fat, and production of proteins and immune factors, which are important in the defense of the body against infections and in the clothing of blood,” he said.
The medical expert identified factors that predispose one to hepatitis to include unsafe injection practices, transfusion of unscreened blood, vertical transfusion from an infected mother to the baby, among others.
He revealed that the different streams of Hepatitis viruses all differ in their mode of transmission, severity of disease and their treatment.
The Medical said while Hepatitis A and E tend to cause acute Hepatitis and are transmitted through contaminated foods or drink, Hepatitis B and C have the capacity to cause both acute and chronic infection and they are transmitted through blood and sexual contact with infected persons.
Globally, Hepatitis B and C are of great concern due to their prevalence, Dr Anagboso said.
The medical practitioner who also spoke on the signs and symptoms of the disease, said the disease has a vaccine available in the country urged the people to go for medical check-up regularly to know their status
“Risk factors include unsafe injection practices, transfusion of unscreened blood, vertical transfusion from an infected mother. Some of the signs and symptoms include generalized symptoms like fever, fatigue, decreased appetite, nausea and vomiting and more specific symptoms as abdominal pain, jaundice, dark urine, pale faeces among others. Hepatitis B has a vaccine available in the country for its prevention, but Hepatitis C has no vaccines yet,” he said.
Anagboso advised that people take the vaccine considering the prevalence of Hepatitis B in the country, asking those diagnosed of Hepatitis to seek treatment with anti-viral agents and patients to visit the hospitals so that they can be treated by a specialist.
According to him, the World Health Organization, in its commitment to eradicating Hepatitis B, has set a goal to reduce new Hepatitis infection by 90 percent, and death from Hepatitis B by 65 percent between 2016 and 2030.