From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
Prof. Abraham Orkurga Malu of Department of Medicine, University of Jos has raised the alarm that over 18 million Nigerians have been infected with hepatitis virus, expressing fear that most of the carriers are unaware of the existence of the deadly virus in their system.
According to him, the ignorance is due to inability of most Nigerians to submit themselves to proper medical check up,.
The scholar stated this at a Colloquium organized in honour of President of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, Prof. Musa Muhammad Borodo by the College of Health Sciences, Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital titled: The Burden of Viral Hepatitis, Challenges and Treatment in Nigeria held at Marhaba Event Centre, Kano.
Prof. Malu noted that in Nigeria, knowledge of viral hepatitis remains limited amongst the general public, at-risk populations, policymakers, and even health-care providers and as a consequence, most of Nigerians estimated to be living with viral hepatitis do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, he further stated that Viral hepatitis is a major global health problem with more than 500 million patients chronically infected and it causes over 1 million deaths per year.
He added that it is estimated that about 248 million people are living with chronic Hepatitis B infection and that 110 million persons are Hepatitis B-antibody positive, of which 80 million have active viremia infection.
According to him, Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest burden of viral hepatitis with a working prevalence of 11% of Hepatitis B and 2.2% of Hepatitis C.
The laboratory facilities needed for proper evaluation such as for measuring viral load are either not available or are not being made use of or just too expensive for out of pocket expenses.
He said facilities for determining the level of fibrosis in the liver are hardly available in most teaching hospitals and most state capitals in the country.
He added that, “all these make it very difficult to properly initiate treatment. Many have resorted to using their clinical judgment to start patients on such treatment.”
He called for screening of any patient feeling unwell in which the obvious cause cannot be easily determined; persons with past history of blood or blood products transfusion or organ transplant; People who inject drugs (PWID) and Persons with a history of haemodialysis.
The Medical scholar advocated the need for provision of proper labs, at least one per state for proper diagnosis and monitoring of treatment; access to affordable treatment facilities and drugs; early diagnosis and monitoring of cirrhosis.
He said Nigeria required N165 billion of drugs to treat hepatitis C, which he said with political will government could afford in order to solve this health challenge.
Vice Chancellor, Professor Muhammad Yahuza Bello, who was represented by the University Librarian, Dr. Musa Auyo, said Professor Borodo has made the University proud by being the first President of NPMCN from the north and said his contributions and commitments to the university and Nigeria would forever be cherished.
In a goodwill message, the Vice Chancellor said he was confident that Prof Borodo would be a good ambassador of BUK and would do everything humanly possible to maintain the standards of the institution in terms of research and discovering solutions to the emergence of new diseases.
The celebrant, Professor Borodo could not hide his joy over the colloquium organized on his behalf, said he achieved milestone in his academic and professional career through the contribution of some people he would never forget in his life.
He expressed appreciation to all those who made the ceremony a success.
Dignitaries who attended the occassion extolled the virtues of Prof Barodo, including Governor of Kano, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, represented by the Commissioner of Environment, Dr. Kabir Ibrahim Getso, CMD Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Prof Adamu Ibrahim Yakasai, Chairman of the occasion, Professor S.S Wali and Dean faculty of Clinical Science, Prof Mahmud Sani.