About 350 people have tested positive for Hepatitis B out of 5000 sampled for the disease in Yobe state recently. The tests were carried out by the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNI), with support from the Yakubu Gowon Centre.
The Programme Manager, PCNI, Musa Damagum, described the result (17.5 per cent) as serious for a disease that is deadlier than HIV.
He said data at his disposal, which he was about to verify, revealed that more than 40 patients that tested positive disease had died before their final confirmatory tests came out.
“Their samples are usually sent for series of laboratory tests at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Shika, Zaria, to confirm their status. Unfortunately, the report I received which I am about to confirm from relevant agencies revealed that we lost 40 patients before the results came out. It’s one of the serious challenges we are facing,” he said.
Damagum said the PCNI would procure a viral load machine and dedicate it to the state for proper management of hepatitis cases.
“In the interim, we have vaccinated 5000 people in Damaturu Specialist Hospital and we are going to screen and vaccinate another batch of 15,000 that will turnout for first and second doses,” he added.
He said a single test was not enough to get accurate result: “It is advisable for one to undergo screening at least three times, if all the confirmatory tests gave the same result, then you arrive at a conclusion that you are negative.”
He advised people in the state to undergo proper screening to know their status in terms of hepatitis, which would either suggest treatment or immunisation.
The State Coordinator, National Blood Transfusion Service, Potiskum-Nangere Centre, Dr. Alhassan Umar Adamu, also confirmed that the Hepatitis B virus was on the increase in the state.
Dr. Adamu said, “I cannot give the exact statistics as far as the prevalence of Hepatitis B in Yobe is concerned, but it is at an alarming rate in the entire north-east. Many patients have tested positive here and in Damaturu. Also, these patients are not only faced with the risk of liver problems and death, but also the risk of transmitting it to others.”
He said the Hepatitis B virus inflamed the liver and was deadlier and more common than HIV.
“Just like HIV, Hepatitis B has no cure yet, and the virus spreads through simple contact with body fluids like blood, semen or even sweat of an infected person,” he said.
He said the infection of hepatitis was symptom-less and that as a result, at the initial stage individuals might not know they were infected until they developed complications.
“So, majority of people affected will not know because the disease often takes up to one to six months to manifest symptoms like low fever, loss of appetite, nausea/vomitting, jaundice, general malaise, passage of dark coloured and urine,” he added.
He said medical experts always advised people to take precautionary measures of routine check, adequate screening of blood before transfusion, avoiding casual sex, good hygiene, and embarking on adequate sensitisation campaign to educate people on the disease.
“And for the people whose status read negative, they should try and get themselves vaccinated because the vaccine could provide protection for up to 30 years,” he said.
Dr. Adamu said there was need for relentless efforts geared towards upgrading existing health facilities in order to facilitate thorough screening of blood and blood products.
“This will go a long way if donor agencies and government can fund research in this area so as to uncover the main reasons behind the high incidence rate of the infection in our population with a view to averting the spread of the disease,” he added.
Medical experts believe that Hepatitis B virus infection is highly preventable, especially with the advent of the Hepatitis B vaccine, which they say offers significant protection from the virus in about 95 per cent of people who receive the vaccine appropriately.
In recognition of this fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends at least three doses of this vaccine. Accordingly, the Expanded Programme on Immunisation in Nigeria facilitates the administration of the vaccine to all newborns at birth, six weeks and 14 weeks to make up three completed doses.
This helps to maximise the benefits of immunisation and forestall future occurrence of this lethal condition in children who received the vaccine at birth.
By Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Damaturu
Daily Trust News
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