Thursday, 02 January 2014 00:00 Written by From: Emeka Anuforo
THE Federal Government has inaugurated a Technical Working Group on viral Hepatitis Control in Nigeria, as a quick intervention on the increasing burden of hepatitis virus in the country.
The government has also bemoaned the dearth of attention given to the control of the infection globally.
Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu, said at the inauguration of the working group in Abuja that hepatitis was much dangerous than the HIV/AIDS, and as such, required significant national attention.
Meanwhile, a survey carried out by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, supported by Roche Pharmaceuticals, finds that Nigeria has 11 per cent hepatitis B prevalence and little over 2.2 per cent Hepatitis C prevalence.
Sub-Saharan Africa, among other regions, is considered to be the most endemic, with average carrier rate of 10-20 per cent in general population.
But, while hepatitis B has vaccines for prevention, there is no vaccine currently available for against hepatitis C.
Chukwu said the Federal Government was prepared to bring the issue of hepatitis to the front burnåer.
He said: “More than two billion people are infected with hepatitis B virus world wide while some 280 million are chronic carriers, having the virus in their liver. About two million of these carriers die each year as a result of liver cirrhosis or primary liver cell cancer induced by the virus.
“Unfortunately, not much attention has been given to hepatitis control globally and especially in Nigeria even when the burden of hepatitis is rapidly increasing and progress could be effectively prevented.
“Globally about 34 million people are infected with Human Immunology Deficiency Virus (HIV) compared with 400 million persons infected with the hepatitis virus.
“HIV attracts funding of about $2,774/person living with HIV annually while only about $20 is spent per viral hepatitis patient.”
Represented, by the Permanent Secretary, Amb. Sani Bala, he noted that the Technical working Group was government response to curbing the menace.
The Minister stressed that the group would come up with articulated and cost effective framework for viral hepatitis control for Nigeria.
The committee’s terms of reference includes providing technical guidance for implementation of hepatitis control programme within existing policies and plans; to support advocacy and resource mobilisation efforts for hepatitis prevention, management and control; to support the ministry in the development of the national guideline on hepatitis prevention, management and control in Nigeria; and to explore ways and means of making innovative partnership towards making the prevention of hepatitis a national priority.
He noted that more than two billion people were infected with hepatitis B Virus globally while about 280 million are chronic carriers, having the virus in their liver.
About two million of these carriers, he said, die each year as a result of liver cirrhosis or primary liver cell cancer induced by the virus. Sub-Saharan Africa, the Minister stated, is considered to be a high endemic region, with an average carrier rate of 10 – 20 percent in the general population.
“Globally, about 34 million people are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) compared with 400 million persons infected with the hepatitis virus.
“HIV attracts funding of about $2,774/Person Living With HIV annually, while only about $20 is spent per viral hepatitis patient. A recent survey conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control supported by Roche Pharmaceuticals showed that Hepatitis B & C viruses have prevalence of 11.0 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively. While there is a vaccine for the prevention of Hepatitis B, there is no vaccine currently available for vaccination against the Hepatitis C infection.”