The Federal Government has launched the first edition of the National Guidelines for the prevention, treatment, care and control of viral hepatitis in the country.
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said this on Thursday at a news conference to mark the 2016 World Hepatitis Day in Abuja.
Adewole explained that viral hepatitis was a silent killer and the seventh leading cause of death globally.
He said the theme for this year’s global campaign is “Know Hepatitis, Act now’’.
He said that the campaign aims to highlight the need for Nigerians to know hepatitis and take actions, by getting tested and to seek for treatment.
“According to WHO, viral hepatitis is responsible for 1.44 million annual deaths, which is comparable to the annual deaths from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis yet it suffers from lack of awareness and political de-prioritisation.
“An estimated 240 million persons are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus and 150 million with hepatitis.
“It is also estimated that majority of persons with chronic hepatitis B and C are unaware of their infection and do not benefit from clinical care, treatment and interventions designed to reduce onward transmission.
“Without diagnosis and treatment one third of those infected with viral hepatitis will die as a result of liver disease,’’ he said.
Adewole said that a recent population based survey conducted by the federal ministry of health in 2013, revealed that the prevalence of viral hepatitis B and C to 11.0 per cent and 2.2 per cent in Nigeria.
He said that about 20 million people were living with the virus in Nigeria and were at risk of developing liver cirrhosis.
He noted that hepatitis was an inflammation of the liver caused by hepatitis virus, type A, B, C, D and E.
“Common modes of transmission for this virus include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment.
“For hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child and also by sexual contact.
“The best strategy is to start now to prevent viral hepatitis by knowing the risks of contracting, which are from unsafe blood, unsafe injections, sharing drug-injection equipment and unprotected sexual intercourse.
“It is important to re-emphasise the need for all health workers to reduce risks by using only sterile equipment for injections and other medical procedures,’’ he said.
Adewole said that Nigeria has adopted the first ever elimination strategy for viral hepatitis with ambitious targets and to eliminate hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
He said that government was committed to the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis.
He urged all policy makers, health workers and the public to take proactive steps of knowing their status by getting tested and seeking treatment to reduce needless deaths from this preventable and treatable infection. (NAN)