Over 20 million Nigerians infected with hepatitis- Minister

The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, at a press briefing on the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, at a press briefing on the outbreak of Coronavirus in Nigeria

About 20 million Nigerian are chronically infected with hepatitis B and C, the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, said on Tuesday.

Mr Ehanire, while speaking at the World Health Organisation (WHO) virtual high-level commemoration of World Hepatitis Day, said viral hepatitis B and C is endemic in the country.

“In 2018, Nigeria conducted a National AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey which showed a prevalence of 8.1 per cent for Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and 1.1 per cent for Hepatitis C (HCV).

“We can estimate that about 20 million people are chronically infected,” he said.

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places yearly on July 28, to bring the world together under a single theme and to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis in order to influence real change.

This year’s theme ‘Hepatitis-free future’ holds a strong focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns, and spreading awareness about the disease amid COVID-19 pandemic.

So, it becomes all the more crucial to know about the nature, prevention, and treatment of these viral illnesses.

Vaccinations

Mr Ehanire said the country is working in alignment with the regional resolution to reduce Hepatitis B virus (HBV) to less than two per cent in children by the end of 2020.

This, he said will be achieved through Hepatitis B birth dose vaccination.

He noted that the Hepatitis B Birth Dose vaccination remains the best way to reduce the numbers of new infections in the country.

Mr Ehanire, however, identified inadequate domestic contribution for financing vaccines as a major challenge of the HBV Birth Dose.

“One of the major challenges of Hepatitis B birth dose vaccination was the inadequate domestic contribution to finance vaccines and expand access to services.

“In recent times, Nigeria has made important progress in this area. We are committed to a $3billion Nigeria Strategy on Immunization and PHC Systems Strengthening (NSIPSS).

“This is our plan for transitioning to financial ownership of the immunization and primary health care system over a ten-year period, from 2018-2028,” he said.

Screening, awareness

In his remarks, WHO Country Representative, Walter Mulombo, said public awareness has increasingly become important to urge all adults who don’t know their status to go for screening and children to get immunized for hepatitis B.

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He said this year’s theme helps to highlight the importance of preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B as well as the need to scale-up prevention, testing and treatment for hepatitis B and C.

“If all children are protected with hepatitis B birth-dose vaccination within (the) first 24 hours of life, hepatitis B, which accounts for 85 per cent viral hepatitis in our region, can be eliminated for the incoming generations.

“For the current generation, screening and treatment remain (the) mainstay intervention,” he said.

He commended Nigeria for being among 13 countries, in the region, that has introduced Hepatitis B birth-dose vaccination.

This, he said, has contributed to notable global progress in the expansion of routine hepatitis B vaccination despite the continued stagnation of Penta3 coverage at 76 per cent for over a five-year period.



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