The global philanthropic club, Rotary International, has started a campaign to screen and treat at least a million Nigerians for hepatitis in one week.

In Abuja, the Rotary Club of Abuja, Maitama has set up sites for hepatitis testing in different districts under its coverage, where health workers and volunteers will screen residents for hepatitis throughout the week.

Its campaign, tagged “Hepatitis Zero—Find the Missing Million” comes amidst concern that the prevalence of hepatitis in Nigeria is misunderstood.

The prevalence of hepatitis B stands between 11% and 13% – that’s around 20 million Nigerians.

For hepatitis C, the prevalence is 3% – that’s around three million Nigerians affected.

“That’s more than the total population of nearby countries like Togo and Benin—and what are we doing about it?” said Oye Oyewo, director of the Rotarian Action Group for Hepatitis.

“People look at the percentages and don’t appreciate the magnitude.”

A vaccine exists to prevent hepatitis C. Once an infection has set in, treatment could cost as much as $90,000—that’s N32.4 million.

The campaign will provide vaccine for residents who test negative, while those who test positive will be linked to health facilities for treatment, all funded by Rotary.

“We expect heavy campaigns from the government. If you turn on your radio, you should be able to hear something about hepatitis. If it is handled as HIV was handled, things will change,” said Oyewo.

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. Different causes can be responsible, but the concern is when a virus is the cause of the inflammation.

The virus can be contracted through unprotected sexual intercourse and bodily fluids. It is considered so potent, it can last on surfaces for days longer than HIV.

Nearly three in four cases of liver cancer are linked to hepatitis. The disease is considered dangerous because it shows no particular symptoms other than symptoms that are common in malaria.

Hepatitis B and C are the deadliest but we don’t take it serious because there are no symptoms in carriers,” said Oyewo. “Any time you have symptoms, then it is ready to kill.”

Physician and Rotarian, Dr Frank Odafen, said preventing an infection is both better and cheaper.

“In our different communities, we should be advocates to make people go and get tested. When positive, bring them to the Rotarian Action Group.”

The club’s president, Eucharia Ekweozoh, said Rotary was committed to ensuring more Nigerians get tested to head off the mortality and morbidity that comes with hepatitis.

Font: Daily Trust