The Federal Government has launched a five-year plan, aimed at controlling viral hepatitis in the country.
The move, which coincided with yesterday’s observance of World Hepatitis Day, is the first response by the government to a recent World Health Assembly resolution on the need for member nations to take action on prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
At the event, yesterday, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, represented by Director of Public Health, Dr. Evelyn Ngige, said the plan would provide a road map for eliminating the scourge though creation of awareness, increased diagnosis and key interventions including universal vaccination, blood and injection safety, harm reduction and treatment of affected individuals.
Already, Rotary International has pledged 7000 volunteers from its war against polio, to boost implementation of the strategy.
According to Mr. Gbemiga Olowu, former Governor, Rotary International (District 9110), “We will bring the same zeal we put into polio into this project. Rotary will also take advantage of its Family Health Days to screen and test for hepatitis.”
The Minister said though over 20 million people live with the virus in Nigeria, most are unaware and risk developing liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, and may transmit the infection to other people.
He called on policy makers, health workers and the public to know their status by getting tested and, where necessary, seek treatment, to reduce needless deaths.
Also at the event, former Head of State, Yakubu Gowon, represented by Dr. Mike Oyewole, pledged support for the policy, as he did action on guinea worm and malaria.
Despite disturbing statistics on prevalence of the disease, however, Head of Virology at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Rosemary Audu, disclosed, yesterday, that over 500 hepatitis B patients have received treatment at the centre, with most reaching viral suppression level, a situation she said could curb spread of the infection.
Also to mark the World Hepatitis Day, Roche Nigeria Limited, yesterday, held an awareness programme at Bony Camp Military Cantonment, Lagos state, where the facilitator, Oluwadare Rotimi, enlightened officers on prevention of the disease.