By Patrick Ochei
Important public health information has emerged from the celebration of the 2020 World Hepatitis Day which kicked off from July 28 to August 12, 2020 by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Delta State Chapter, which was by all standards a huge success in spite of the current global public health challenges – the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This year’s event was planned and executed with series of functions, including training workshops by the World Health Days and Immunization Committee on the Celebration of World Hepatitis Day, which was set up by the Delta State NMA for optimal result.
According to the report of the Committee, “The World Hepatitis Day was inaugurated by the World Hepatitis Alliance in 2008, as a day to create awareness about viral hepatitis as a global epidemic in order to sensitize people on measures to curb the spread of the disease and to inform them about available treatment options for those already infected.
“The major classes of viral hepatitis currently reported are HAV, HBV, HCV, HDV, and HEV. Hepatitis A & E are known to be spread by ingestion of contaminated food and fluids, while B, C & D, are contracted through contact or direct exposure to infected blood, blood products and body fluids. Hepatitis B&C are known to be largely responsible for Liver Cirrhosis and Cancer.
“It is a documented fact that about 2 billion people are infected by Hepatitis B globally and approximately 350 million persons are living with the chronic form of the disease.
“Nigeria is classified as highly endemic for HBV, with a reported prevalence of 4.3% to 23.3% in different parts of the country. The WHO in 2010, stated that Viral Hepatitis results in about 1.4 million deaths annually, with HBV and HCV being responsible for about 90% of the fatalities, whilst the remaining 10% of fatalities are caused by the other groups of Hepatitis viruses”, the reported stated.
There were two themes for this year’s event: The World Health Organization, WHO’s theme was “A HEPATITIS FREE FUTURE”. This was designed to drive home the message that we can live in a world totally free of the disease if we all play our part in curbing the spread and limiting its fatalities.
The theme for the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) was “FINDING THE MISSING MILLIONS”. This was designed to buttress the need for people to know their Hepatitis status in order to take the right step towards a Hepatitis free future.
The WHO in 2015 reported that globally,1 out of 3 persons has been infected by either HBV or HCV. The World Hepatitis Alliance in their 2020 report, stated that, 290 million persons are currently infected by Viral Hepatitis and 9 out of 10 of these persons, are unaware of their status. Both themes were utilized in the celebration.
The Committee for World Health Days and Immunization which served as the local organizing committee of the NMA Delta State, for the event set out with a two phase plan to commemorate the event.
The first phase comprised of major media awareness campaign about viral hepatitis; types, causes, presentation, complications, treatment and prevention. There was a major emphasis on the advantage of early detection by screening and the privilege of immunization were applicable. This took place on the 28th and 29th of July 2020.
The campaign was also aimed at enlightening the general populace of the availability of medical care for those who were already infected by the deadly blood borne variants Hepatitis B and C (HBV AND HCV). Easy access to specialist care by gastroenterologist in locations such as Central Hospital Warri, DELSUTH, Oghara and FMC Asaba was emphasized.
The media outlets were adequately utilized for this purpose and the representatives for the Association, Dr Mukoro and Dr Akpodiete were in Quest FM, Dr Rukewe and Dr Inojie were in Trend FM Asaba, Dr Mabiaku and Dr Ogholo (Guest Gastroenterologist) were in Melody FM Warri all on the 28th of July 2020 and finally, Dr Uche and Dr Mabiaku were in Good Morning Delta DBS Warri on Wednesday the 29th of July 2020.
The second phase of the programme was focused on healthcare workers generally in Delta State. This was premised on the fact that these group of persons were occupationally predisposed to the deadly blood borne HBV and HCV. The focus of the programme was on “Free Health Screening for HBV surface antigen and HCV antibodies in serum of health care workers sreened.
Four major government owned health facilities, distributed across the senatorial districts of the state were utilized and they were: Central Hospital Warri, Central Hospital Ughelli, DELSUTH Oghara, and FMC Asaba.
The screening exercise spanned for three days; 3rd-5th August, 2020, with the first day marking “the flag off“ of the event.
The “flag off” was graciously attended by all the Medical Directors and top management staff of the four health designated faculties utilized. These officials were particularly pleased with the initiative of the Association and extended arms of support to the programme in their facilities by supplying basic PPEs throughout the programme.
Also present at the opening ceremonies were Heads of Departments of Nursing and Medical Laboratory Science.
The screening of all samples collected was by medical laboratory scientists in all four designated centres.
The CMD of DELSUTH Oghara, in his speech during the opening ceremony, promised to adopt this practice (screening for HBV and HCV) as a routine hence forth for new employees in his facility. A total of four hundred and forty eight (448) health care workers were screened throughout the duration of the programme. A total of 19 persons were reported to be positive for HBV, while 3 persons were positive for HCV from collated results of all four centres.
The conclusive phase of the programme was for advocacy for immunization of those participants who had tested negative and for referral of all positive cases to the gastroenterologists in the State hospitals.
The World Health Days and Immunization Committee whose LOC Chairman and Secretary, Dr Mabiaku Yvonne and Dr Francis Bakpa respectively in their signed vote of thanks, said a big thank you to the Delta State Chairman of NMA, Dr Omo Ekeneam and the NMA Delta BOC for the opportunity to serve.