Hepatitis B infection should be treated as a health emergency just like guinea worm, Ebola, and polio through massive screening and immunisation to ensure complete eradication, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS has said.
The students’ union body appealed to the Federal Government to screen and vaccinate Nigerian students against the disease.
The World Health Organisation, WHO has dedicated July 28 each year as World Hepatitis Day, with a view to eradicating the disease by 2030.
Ahead of the World Hepatitis Day, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole had called on stakeholders in the health sector to create awareness on dangers posed by viral hepatitis and also appealed to Nigerians to know their hepatitis status towards preventing liver diseases and hepatitis-related deaths.
In a statement on Friday, NANS’ Director of Health, Chukwu John, urged Nigerian students to go for testing, practice safe sex and avoid sharing of needles and blades.
He described the risk and prevalence of the infectious disease as a matter of national emergency.
He said that with documented national prevalence rate of Hepatitis B as high as 11 to 15 per cent, makes Nigeria one of the highest in the world with over 20 million cases.
“I want to call the attention of the Federal Government to the prevalence of hepatitis B.
“Studies have shown that over 300 million people have chronic liver infections globally and about 600,000 people die annually from acute or chronic complications of Hepatitis B.
“Hepatitis B is hyperendemic in Nigeria and may be the highest in sub- Saharan Africa.
“Moreover, the dangerous thing is that less than five per cent of those living with hepatitis B know they have the disease,’’ he said.
Mr. John said that Hepatitis B was three times more infectious than HIV/AIDS, adding that its national prevalence was three times more than that of HIV/AIDS and diabetes.
According to WHO, Hepatitis is a silent killer and kills faster than HIV/AIDS.
An estimated 325 million people were living with chronic Hepatitis infections (HBV or HCV) worldwide in 2015 and 1.34 million people died of the virus globally in 2015, the agency stated.
There are five main types of Hepatitis virus referred to as Types A, B, C, D, and E.
Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of contact with infected body fluids.
The common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment and for Hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.
However, WHO estimates that about 10 per cent of Nigerians are living with chronic Hepatitis, either B or C.