By Chikezie Ogbonna
World Hepatitis Day is commemorated each year on 28 July to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes a range of health problems, including liver cancer.
According to the World Health Organization, there are five main strains of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. Together, hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, viral hepatitis continues to claim thousands of lives every day.
This year’s theme is “Hepatitis-free future,” with a strong focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns.
However, in an exclusive interview with The Choice Flame, a medical lab professional, Anthony Ugwu and the director of Spectrum Laboratory Diagnostic Center in Enugu bemoaned the failing testing capacity and detection of potential carriers.
According to him, though the yearly free testing organized by medical practitioners in the country and in some centers in the state as part of activities in marking the annual World Hepatitis Day has helped reduced the risk of death occasioned by it, but, more needs to be done in helping curb the spread of the virus.
“At any time we carry put these tests, we discover it in a lot of people who do not know they have it. The first time, we discovered about 300 new cases, the second time, it was about 900,000 to 1,000,000 cases. We discovered hepatitis B was higher, followed by C”, said Anthony Ugwu.
He further blamed the increasing case on unchecked blood transfusion in the hospitals which he attributed to their lack of thoroughness in applying every necessary testing protocol on donated bloods even before preservation.
“For hepatitis B, it is blood transfusion. I would advise the Minister of Health steps in and help the hospitals or put up a centre for the screening of blood by the PCR method. And also put up laws such as not transfusing any blood that has not been screened by the PCR method.
“The Government should also encourage free screening. Those who test positive to B or C should go for DNA test and take treatment”, he said.
Anthony also called on government to help in expanding the testing capacity of the country to help mitigate the risk of death posed on affected persons.
You can read the full interview on the coming early August edition of The Choice Flame Newspaper on Sunday 2nd August which will be on sale across Parishes in Enugu Diocese