By Aaron Ossai
No fewer than 20 million Nigerians are currently suffering from hepatitis B virus infection, a Consultant Haematologist, Dr. Chikaodinaka Nwakaego has said.
Speaking at a one day national symposium on “Assessment of Western Policies against COVID-19: Lessons for Nigeria” in Abuja by the Nigerian Youth Congress, NYC, Dr. Nwakaego described the development as worrisome.
She disclosed that out of the 20 million Nigerians suffering from the hepatitis B virus infection representing 9.5 percent of the country’s population, 7.5 percent are pregnant women.
Dr. Nwakaego who is a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Health said the unfortunate aspect of the situation is that the majority of those living with the virus do not know that they have it.
She further explained that 9.9 percent of those infected by the hepatitis virus are people living with the Human Immune Deficiency Syndrome, HIV while 13.7 per cent of them are blood donors regretting that Nigerians do not take advantage of the fact that the disease is preventable to go for test to know their status.
Announcing that there are plans by the various stakeholders in the health sector to ensure that hepatitis virus was eliminated in Nigeria by the year 2030, she appealed to the youths in the country to intensify awareness with a view to preventing the spread of the disease.
The Deputy Director therefore called on Nigerians especially the youths to always make themselves available for hepatitis testing and know their status so that the virus would be detected before it damages their liver.
In his keynote address at the occasion, Consultant Health Physician in the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Dakum longji Benji gave some interesting facts and figures about the COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated that since the outbreak of the pandemic, over five million individuals have been tested in Nigeria through various PCR, rapid tests and antibody tests with 256,958 confirmed cases, 250,117 discharged, 3,144 deaths and 3,637 cases still active as of today.
Nigeria, he said, has recorded the best indices in the management and case to death ratio in Africa, a feat he said the country should learn from in management of emerging virus and epidemics.
He praised the efforts of the Chinese Government for coming to the aid of the country at the height of the pandemic during which they provided life saving medical supplies and contributed to the building of isolation centers for the care of COVID-19 patients.
“The Chinese government and people proved to be friends of the nation by lending aid in the form of various medical equipment worth over $1.5million, medical and technical personnel and loans. Chinese companies in Nigeria like the CCECC and CGC also helped by building various world class isolation centres and giving palliatives to those in need”, he disclosed.
Earlier, the National President of the Nigerian Youth Congress, NYC, Mr. Blessing Akilosotu had noted that emerging viruses like monkey pox and hepatitis are yet to get the required attention from government stating that this has to change as the nation cannot afford to go to sleep with the experience of Covid-19.
“Covid is still with us, new viruses are emerging and we cannot afford to be laid back in an epidemic situation, we have to learn from the Chinese government’s dynamic zero-out policy which is working efficiently, we cannot afford to joke with the health of our people”, he stated.
He stated that the purpose of the symposium was not only to draw attention to how government was able to tackle Covid-19 but also to draw on the lessons learnt in dealing with emerging infectious viral diseases like monkey pox and hepatitis and lessons that can be learnt from other climes like China, which has proven to be number one in containment of the pandemics among its citizens.