It may sound unbelievable but it is true that 13 per cent Nigerians are carrier of Hepatitis Virus. The virus is lying quietly in their system because in the pathology of Hepatitis B, some people are just healthy carriers.
In this interview with Dr Sanni Olukayode, a, Consultant Physician at EKO Hospital, Ikeja, Lagos, Hepatitis are of various species and it is becoming endemic in developing countries, including Nigeria.
FINDINGS SHOW THAT 13 PER CENT OF NIGERIANS ARE HEALTHY CARRIERS OF HEPATITIS, HOW WILL YOU REACT TO THIS?
According to Dr Olukayode, Hepatitis is common in this environment and as a matter of fact, it is almost endemic but like you know, when you say Hepatitis, it means the inflammation of the Liver and this is a major organ in the body.
He went further to say that "There are various types of Hepatitis, the common ones are Hepatitis A & B but if you put them in alphabetical order, we have up to E. Hepatitis A & B have a different route by which they get to human beings".
"Hepatitis A which atimes we call epidemic Hepatitis is transmitted orally in contrast to Hepatitis B which is through blood contact and sexual act".
WHY ISN'T IT TALKED ABOUT AS COMPARED TO HIV?
"The reason is that HIV correlates very well with certain attitudes and behaviour in humans and the impact is usually on a younger age group that are quite active sexually. By way of transmission from what we know, it is transmitted faster than Hepatitis B".
"Unlike Hepatitis B, A occurs where except there is an epidemic outbreak which also is a reflection of the public health of the people but HIV has to do with one aspect of human life that is very secretive and then becomes open and people rate it as being deadly because of the type of publicity given to it but then Hepatitis B has been around for so many years and people talk about it but just that people don't place credence to it for one single reason, it can be very insidious".
"Infact, in most cases of Hepatitis B, people are just carriers. They have it but don't manifest the symptoms in an acute manner except after several years. Usually, there are very few people that have the acute attack and initially they may think it's malaria or flu and they don't take it seriously".
"The carrier rate of Hepatitis B in the society is quite high. Hepatitis A itself, when it comes up, it comes up in such an acute manner but the person could recover if it's not overwhelming. Whereas, when someone has HIV it manifests around 6 weeks or so then the individual becomes chronically ill and it probably progresses to death".
"Hepatitis A & B is not as common in developed countries because they've taken measures against it because it is preventable".
"It is incorporated in their immunization scheme as soon as the child is born so they prevent it before it becomes an issue".
"Hepatitis is a problem of developing countries and people with poor public health system".
HAS THE FEDERAL/STATE GOVERNMENT CREATED AWARENESS
"Yes! As of today by the immunization policy of the Federal Government, it has been incorporated I think, for Hepatitis B. For Hepatitis A like I said, it is a function of the public health issues because for you to pick Hepatitis A, it has to go through your mouth. E.g poor sewage/waste disposal as well as poor personal hygeine of the individual. For those that love eating salad and vegetables raw, they're likely to pick it up".
HOW DOES HEPATITIS AFFECT NIGERIAS WORKFORCE
"Usually for Hepatitis B, its a chronic disease. As a matter of fact we get worried if a child picks it up. It is more likely to be deadly for that child by time the child is approaching 30-40yrs that is why it is also dealt with through immunization and care being given to the mother in antenatal clinic so that if she has it, and it is detected during the ante-natal period, you already prime her and get ready to take care of the child after birth".
"In adults on the other hand, it may take up to 20-30 years and the person will be quite aged an so it may not affect the workforce as such because the person is already expended but when a child picks it up and he approaches middle age and he's actively contributing to the economy of the country that is when the disease begins to manifest with all its complications".
HAS ANY NIGERIAN DISCOVERED ANYTHING OF BENEFIT AS REGARDS HEPATITIS?
"Hepatitis is totally preventable and they're vaccines for Hepatitis A & B but all that needs to be done is to create the awareness to let people know that it is available so once you take the vaccine or you're immunized against it, you're not likely to acquire the disease".
"It is quite different from HIV which doesn't have a known cure yet and you can't be immunized against it".
"Hepatitis B itself is completely preventable so awareness and government initiative is what is needed so everyone goes to the hospital to know their status. With just three(3) doses, one is clear".
– Good personal hygeine is essential in preventing Hepatitis especially A. Washing your foodstuff, cooking food properly, washing your hands after using the toilet.
– Risky life behaviour like excessive alcohol intake can predispose you to poor/risky sexual behaviour. Someone that drinks can be very casual and fall victim of Hepatitis B because it is transmitted sexually. That is why once someone has HIV, we usually check them fo Hepatitis B and vice-versa.
Comorbidity can affect the progress of the illness. If somebody has HIV and Hepatitis B he/she is likely to go downhill as compared to someone who doesn't have HIV but has Hepatitis B because HIV reduces your immunity and ability to combat the virus in your system.
– If someone already has Hepatitis B, smoking can aggravate it even if the virus is lying quietly in the system because in the pathology of Hepatitis B, some people are just healthy carriers. The virus is there but it's quiet, not creating any active illness.
– Using drugs indiscriminately could make the Hepatitis B virus flare up and this virus is always at the liver. It loves to stay in the liver and when the virus becomes active it can lead to inflammation of the liver which can also lead to cirrhosis and cancer of the liver.
– Also taking herbs carelessly after being diagnosed of Hepatitis is bad. Most of these herbs are hepatotoxic i.e they are toxic to the liver and such provoke and accelerate the clinical presentation of Hepatitis B and Hepatitis as a whole.