Hepatitis: Medical experts call for increased awareness

Three medical experts have called for increased awareness to reduce mortality rate caused by Hepatitis diseases in Nigeria.

They are Prof. Olufemi Dokun-Babalola, the President, Guild of Medical Directors; Dr Adekunle Otuneye, a Consultant Paediatrician with the National Hospital, Abuja and Dr. Safiya Ojo, a medical practitioner.

The experts spoke in Abuja, on the 2017 World Hepatitis Day.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated July 28 of every year as the World Hepatitis Day to intensify action toward the health targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The theme of the day is: “Eliminate Hepatitis”.

An Online publication, www.medicinenet.com, says “Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. Many illnesses and conditions can cause inflammation of the liver, for example, drugs, alcohol, chemicals, and autoimmune diseases.

Also, according to WHO, Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer.

According to Dokun-Babalola, an estimated 23 million Nigerians are infected with Hepatitis diseases.

Dokun-Babalola said that only one per cent or less of those suffering from hepatitis were aware of the diseases.

“Prevention is better than cure. It is important not to share hair care implements such as razors and clippers to take extra care in handling of needles.Also, there is need to screen blood before transfusions; to be careful about where and what we eat and get vaccinated as soon as possible, because virtually all of us are at risk,’’ he said.

Dokun-Babalola advised that hepatitis- related activities could be arranged in the offices, Churches and Mosques, as well as in various communities.

All the hospitals affiliated with the guild are willing to assist members of the public to avail themselves of diagnosis, treatment, if indicated and vaccination against the deadly virus,’’ he said.

Otuneye, a Consultant Paediatrician, called for more health education for the communities to promote environmental and personal hygiene.

He said that regular hand washing, after visiting the toilet and before handling foods, is necessary for healthy living.

“Very important also is strict screening protocol of blood and blood products meant for transfusion; adoption of injection safety protocol in all health facilities and avoid the use of potentially contaminated sharp objects.“Active protection, using vaccines, particularly for hepatitis virus B and A, and passive vaccinations exist also as post-exposure prophylaxis for hepatitis B and A,’’ Otuneye said.

He said that babies delivered to hepatitis B positive mothers were required to receive both passive and active protection within the first 48 hours of life and before commencing breast feeding.

The consultant paediatrician also said that the coverage of hepatitis B vaccination had been increased by the inclusion of this vaccine into the routine immunization schedule.

In her remarks, Dr. Safiya Ojo, a medical practitioner with the Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, also called for increased awareness to reduce mortality rate resulting from hepatitis.

Ojo said that there is need for Nigerians to know their status as most people were ignorant of health hazard associated with hepatitis.