The Executive Director of Trinity Healthcare Foundation, Dr. Nseabasi Ekanem has described Nigeria as highly endemic for Hepatitis with millions of Nigerians living with the Hepatitis virus. Dr. Ekanem made this known in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital while speaking with newsmen immediately after the advocacy and public enlightenment campaign on hepatitis virus organized by the Foundation to mark World Hepatitis Day 2018 in Nigeria.
The advocacy and awareness campaign which also included Hepatitis screening, vaccination and counselling according to Ekanem was organised in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for the first time to mark the World Hepatitis Day 2018 celebrated the world over on July 28, 2018.
Speaking on the theme for the World Hepatitis Day 2018, “Finding the Missing Millions”, Dr. Ekanem said it was apt as it was designed to create public awareness and inform the millions of people who have no knowledge about Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.
His words: “We are carrying out this advocacy and public enlightenment campaign on Hepatitis B and C and other forms of viral hepatitis to draw the attention of the global community to the scourge of Hepatitis and the need for collective efforts towards eliminating the condition, which is in line with the theme of the World Hepatitis Day 2018 which is “Finding the Missing Millions”.
“The reason we are adopting this theme for this year is because, there are millions of Nigerians with others around the world who are living with Hepatitis B and C and other forms of viral hepatitis without even knowing. So, this year, we have decided to go in search of the missing millions.
“This event provides an opportunity for the public to be screened to know their Hepatitis status, vaccinated against the virus and get treated so that those who are positive can get rid of the virus. This is the strategic plan to completely eliminate the virus by the year 2030, tagged NoHep2030”
Dr. Ekanem emphasized the need for concerted effort by Governments, NGOs and philanthropic organisations in the campaign towards eliminating the virus from the global community.
Nseabasi Ekanem said that Trinity Healthcare Foundation chose Uyo, Akwa Ibom State for the advocacy campaign to give residents of the state an opportunity to know their status and take actions towards preventing and treating the condition through free screening, vaccination and treatment.
He explained that Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E destroys the liver and eventually kills the individual if not diagnosed early enough and treated.
“Hepatitis B does not present symptoms on time. In fact, by the time symptoms present themselves, the liver would have already been severely damaged, making successful treatment extremely difficult if not impossible.” He said.
“The reason hepatitis B does not present itself on time is because the liver has what we call the organ reserved capacity, which gives the liver the ability to still function even when it is badly damaged.” Said Dr. Nseabasi Ekanem.
“That is the reason we are going out to sensitize Nigerians about the virus so that those that have it can start treatment before the liver becomes badly damaged,” he said.
The Executive Director of Trinity Healthcare Foundation identified the symptoms of hepatitis B to include, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains dark colour urine and stool, yellowing of the eyes and skin and non-specific rashes around the body, cough, itching and headache, loss appetite and severe fatigue.
He said that most of the symptoms are closely related to those of malaria, explaining why most people living with hepatitis end up treating malaria, not knowing that they are endemic to viral hepatitis.
According to him, if hepatitis is diagnosed on time, medication/treatment could be successfully administered as early detection was the key to eliminating the viral hepatitis.
Dr. Nseabasi Ekanem explained that hepatitis B was transmitted through unprotected sex, casual sexual intercourse with someone whose status was not known, adding that it could also be transmitted through sharing of sharp objects and blood transfusion.
He added that hepatitis B could be transmitted from mother to child, hence, pregnant mothers must always screen for hepatitis B during ante natal to avoid mother to child transmission.
To fast track the elimination of viral hepatitis from Nigeria, Ekanem called on the Government of Akwa Ibom State as well as other State Governments, development partners and policy makers to increase funding for hepatitis elimination programmes and draw-up strategic plans towards vaccinating the public against hepatitis B and C and treatment of those who are already carriers.
“From the statistics of today, we have screened and vaccinated over 900 Akwa Ibom residents. Even passers-by have also been informed about the hepatitis B and C virus and precautionary measures to adopt to keep themselves free from the virus.” He said.
“During our screening, we have discovered quite a number of people who are carriers of the hepatitis B and C virus, this goes to proof that Akwa Ibom is indeed endemic for hepatitis B,” said Dr. Ekanem.