No fewer than 20 million Nigerians are living with the hepatitis B virus, (HBV), a gastroenterologist, Prof. Adamu Samaila of the Department of Medicine, Bayero University Kano, says.
Samaila, who is a professor of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, disclosed this on Friday at the awareness lecture and screening exercise for HBV organised by the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) for its personnel in Abuja.
He explained that viral hepatitis is an infection of the liver caused by virus, and the five types of viruses most commonly responsible for viral hepatitis infection are: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis D and Hepatitis E.
Samaila, who noted that hepatitis is a common problem worldwide, said that there were many misconceptions about the ailment.
He said that hepatitis B causes 80 per cent of all liver cancer in human beings, adding that the virus could be transmitted by contaminated blood, semen and risky sex.
Samaila also said HBV could be transmitted from an infected mother to child, through sharing of needles, syringes or other drug-injection equipment and sharing of personal hygiene items such as razors or toothbrushes.
“Health workers can be at risk if they are exposed to unsafe medical practices, such as reusing medical equipment, or not using personal protection.
“HBV is not spread through food or water, sharing eating utensils, breastfeeding, hugging, kissing, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or insects that bite.
“However, the virus can survive outside the body for at least seven days, during this time,the virus can still cause infection if it enters the body of a person who is not protected by the vaccine,” he said.
Samaila said Hepatitis B has vaccine but no cure and more deadly than HIV, while hepatitis C has no effective vaccine but potentially curable.
“Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) is 100 times more contagious than HIV and 30 times more infectious than Hepatitis C Virus (HCV),” he said.
On screening for the HBV, he said everybody should be screened adding that “all are at risk, and deserves to be counseled and screened for HBV at any opportunity.”
Earlier, the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, AVM Napoleon Bali, said the Service appreciated the need to have a healthy personnel for operational preparedness.
He said that the fight against the disease should not be left in the hands of medical personnel alone and urged all the NAF personnel to submit themselves for the screening.
He urged all to work together to eradicate hepatitis B from the country.
Also Air Commodore Gideon Bako, the Chief of Medical Services, NAF, Headquaters, said the awareness lecture came at a crucial time when the Service is being repositioned into a highly professional service.
He said this was in line with Abubakar’s vision “to reposition the NAF into a highly professional and disciplined force through capacity building initiatives for effective, efficient and timely employment of air power in response to Nigeria’s national security and imperatives”.