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FG: Nearly 20m Nigerians infected with hepatitis — but awareness still low

FG: Nearly 20m Nigerians infected with hepatitis — but awareness still low
July 26
18:16 2022

Osagie Ehanire, minister of health, says nearly 20 million Nigerians are infected with viral hepatitis.

Ehanire said this on Tuesday at an event to commemorate World Hepatitis Day.

World Hepatitis Day is marked every July 28.

Hepatitis refers to an inflammation of the liver, and there are five common viral hepatitis strains — A, B, C, D, and E.

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Hepatitis A and E are transmitted through contaminated food, water, poor hygiene and close contact with carriers of the virus, while Hepatitis B, C and D are transmitted through blood, sexual intercourse, bodily fluids, sharing syringes and blades, and touching wounds of infected persons.

Speaking at the event which held in Abuja, Ehanire said viral hepatitis, especially B and C, remains a public health threat with attendant mortality.

“In Nigeria, nearly 20 million people are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis B or C. Despite significant rates of infection, there is very low awareness about the infection, infections are under-reported, under-diagnosed and under-treated. Stigma and discrimination of those infected also pose challenges,” he said.

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“We acknowledge the need to do more than ever before to address this.”

He said the ministry, with support from its partners, is taking concrete steps to ensure that hepatitis care is brought closer to every Nigerian. 

“Important policy and strategic documents as well as treatment protocols for viral hepatitis have been developed in line with the global health sector strategy for viral hepatitis control,” he said.

“You may be aware that in May this year, at the 75th world health assembly, WHO member states approved a new global health sector strategy for viral hepatitis.

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“I am happy to inform you that Nigeria has, in alignment with the new strategy, developed our own national strategic framework for viral hepatitis aimed at achieving the global target of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030. I am proud to note that Nigeria is one of the first counties to have achieved this in the short time. 

“The core pillars identified for attaining the 2030 target include infant vaccination, prevention of mother-to-child infection, blood and injection safety, harm reduction, diagnosis and treatment.

“As a country committed to elimination of viral hepatitis by 2030, the need to create massive public awareness cannot be overemphasised. Together with this, we need to build capacity of healthcare providers, expand access to diagnosis and treatment, improve community engagement, as well as political leadership at all levels.”

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