hepatitis population cmd
Nigeria's healthcare system has adverse effects on population control and hepatitis management.

As Nigeria joins the global community to Mark the 2023 World Hepatitis Day today, medical experts have urged Nigerians to shun practices and behaviours that could predispose them to the risk of the infection.

Among the practices highlighted was open defecation, which they said should be shunned as it had been linked to Hepatitis A infection.

According to them, Hepatitis A can be transmitted through open defecation, stressing that though there are different types and causes of hepatitis, the type that is infectious is caused mainly by the Hepatitis A or B viruses.

The health professionals also urged Nigerians using public toilets to ensure that they are clean, warning that Hepatitis B and C infections could be acquired from dirty public toilets.

According to the World Health Organisation, Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver and is caused by a variety of infectious viruses and noninfectious agents, which can lead to a range of health problems, some of which can be fatal.

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E, according to the WHO.

The experts, who spoke with PUNCH Healthwise in commemoration of the day, described hepatitis infection as a silent killer.

World Hepatitis Day is celebrated on 28 July annually, and is an opportunity to step up national and international efforts on hepatitis; encourage actions and engagement by individuals, partners and the public, and highlight the need for a greater global response as outlined in the WHO’s Global hepatitis report of 2017.

The theme for this year’s event is ‘One Life, One Liver’.

According to WHO, every 30 seconds, a person dies of hepatitis-related disease, amounting to an average of 3,600 deaths every day.

The global health body also said that both Hepatitis B and C, which are regarded as the most common of the five strains, cause an average of 1.1 million deaths and three million new infections globally every year.

Speaking with our correspondent, a Public Health Physician and Epidemiologist, Dr. Japheth Olugbogi, described Hepatitis as a deadly disease that should not be treated lightly.

He said, “There are different worms that people can pass out and others can pick up. We have hepatitis A as well. Hepatitis A can be transmitted through open defecation.

“So, there are so many diseases and it is easy for people to pick up these germs, especially when it rains because faecal matter is washed from the canal or gutters into homes, shops and markets. Utensils, plates and water sources also get contaminated. So, there are so many health problems associated with open defecation.”

Dr. Olugbogi, who is the Medical Officer of Health at the Ifelodun Local Council Development Area, gave insight into the dangers of open defecation and why people should shun the act.

He said, “In an environment where people practice open defecation, the germs and worms can contaminate the body of soft drinks or nylon of sachet water. If you don’t wash them thoroughly, you can pick whatever contaminant is on the body of the soft drink or nylon of sachet water.

“Those who sell sachet water think that it is safe but it is not. Even bottled soft drinks are not safe in such a contaminated environment. That can be very dangerous.”

The epidemiologist urged the government to provide Hepatitis free testing policy in Nigeria, pleading that management of the disease should be heavily subsidised to encourage those infected to present themselves for treatment.

The former Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, In 2020, during the World Hepatitis Day event held in Abuja, confirmed that an estimated 20 million Nigerians suffer from chronic hepatitis infections.

“We could estimate that about 20 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and C. Therefore, we recognise the importance of vaccination as a critical intervention in our determination to eliminate HBV infection by 2030,” he said.

The WHO said more than 325 million people are living with hepatitis infection globally. And of this figure, WHO said more than 90 million are living with hepatitis in Africa, representing 26 per cent of the global total.

Meanwhile, a Medical Researcher, Dr. Dan Onwujekwe, advised Nigerians using public toilets to pay attention to hygiene, warning that Hepatitis B and C infections could be acquired through infection from dirty toilets.

He noted that people could also acquire the viral infection if there is direct contact with the blood or open sores of a person who has been infected.

According to him, people should disinfect public toilets with bleach before using them to avoid exposing themselves to the risk of infections.

Dr. Onwujekwe, a Retired Chief Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos, said people could acquire infections such as hepatitis B and C from public toilets if the seats are contaminated with blood or faecal matter.

According to him, COVID-19 has taught the world a lot of things and the need for people to be health-conscious anywhere they are.

He noted that many people are not aware of the risk involved in using public toilets without disinfecting the seat with bleach or detergent.

“There are infections that you can acquire from public toilets. People should know that when the seat is contaminated with blood or faecal matter, infections like Hepatitis B or C don’t die off immediately and can be acquired.

“If a person with a wound or cut sits on it and the wound gets contaminated with the fluid that was dropped there, then the person that uses it afterwards could acquire hepatitis B or C from such a toilet seat.

“So, the simple thing is to disinfect the toilet seat before using it. It will render it safe because these things die off when seats are disinfected.

“But a lot of people don’t do that. When they go and acquire other infections, they will come and tell you it is a toilet infection. But it is not.”

According to him, hepatitis B and C don’t die off quickly unlike HIV which dies off quickly when it is exposed to the air.

“Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver, caused by virus types including A, B, C, D, and E. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) are commonly prevalent forms of viral hepatitis.

“The common factors associated with transmission of both HBV and HCV infections are the same including exposure to infected blood, injection drug use, and reuse of syringe, except that HBV infection can also be caused by sexual contact and mother-to-child transmission at the prenatal stage,” he added.