The 2021 viral hepatitis scorecard by the World Health Organization indicates that an estimated 998,000 children under five years in Nigeria are chronic carriers of the Hepatitis-B antigen. The scorecard also showed that not less than 11,679,000 other Nigerians are chronic carriers of viral Hepatitis-B. The scorecard, obtained by journalists on Sunday, looks at data from the African region but focuses on Hepatitis B and C, both of which cause liver cirrhosis and cancer. It discovered that in 19 countries, more than 8% of the population is infected with Hepatitis B, while in 18 countries, more than 1% of the population lives with Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver caused by various infectious viruses and non-infectious agents, leading to a range of health problems, some of which can be fatal. There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D, and E. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common causes of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and viral hepatitis-related deaths. The Hepatitis B virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids during sex with an infected partner, unsafe injections, or exposure to sharp instruments.

The scorecard showed that Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of people who are chronic carriers of the deadliest strain of the virus among the listed 47 member states in the African region. It noted that Nigeria’s prevalence of the anti-hepatitis C virus is at 1.3%. The report noted that while Nigeria has a national hepatitis treatment program and a national strategic plan for viral hepatitis, the hepatitis B immunization coverage is at 58%. According to the WHO, Africa accounts for roughly 70% of all hepatitis B infections worldwide. It can take decades after infection by the virus before an individual starts manifesting symptoms.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, said, “Hepatitis has been called the silent epidemic, but this scorecard is sounding an alarm for the region and the world to hear. We must do better and stop this disease from stealing away our children’s future. There is a safe and effective vaccine that provides nearly 100% protection against Hepatitis B, one of the virus’s most lethal strains. We must ensure that all African children are vaccinated within 24 hours of their birth and are followed up with two or more doses of the vaccine.”

Speaking with The PUNCH, a Professor of Public Health and former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Prof. Tanimola Akande, lamented the high burden of hepatitis in Nigeria. “It is important for individuals to be tested and know their status. More importantly, Nigerians should prevent this disease through vaccination, which is available in Nigeria. Other precautionary measures should be taken, like preventing transmission through sex, blood transfusion, and needle injuries.”

Also, a medical laboratory scientist at the Department of Microbiology, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra State, Obinna Chukwudi, said the prevalence of hepatitis B and C is high because they can be transmitted through blood, blood products, and sexual intercourse.

Chukwudi said, “Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted through blood and blood products, sexual intercourse, and that is why their prevalence is usually very high because people, especially adults involved in sexual intercourse, have such tendencies and transmission from mother to child. The spread is increasing. People are protecting themselves against HIV, but most of the time they forget some co-infections may be taking place and we have to start creating awareness about this.

“We need to take certain activities very seriously in this country. In the hospital, we have to be sure the blood and blood products are properly screened and the hospital facilities need to be clean. People must also protect themselves adequately and get vaccinated against hepatitis.”

I never knew the harm and risks that came along with being infected until I got a report from my doctor that I was a carrier of the viral load. HBV had corrupted my health and affected my usual daily routine, having me rely solely on drugs to be able to stand on my feet until one evening, while talking to an old-time friend called Arome, I had just met in a program about my health struggles, he mentioned a traditional herbal healer he knew. At first, I was skeptical. How could herbs, something so simple, help with a serious illness like hepatitis B?

But desperation has a way of opening your mind to new possibilities. I decided to give it a try. I met the herbal healer, an elderly woman named Mama Ojoma, in a small, cozy hut filled with the earthy scent of dried herbs. Her calm demeanor and wealth of knowledge about plants were reassuring. She explained how certain herbs had been used for centuries to treat liver ailments and boost overall health.

Mama Ojoma prepared a blend of herbs specifically for my condition. The mixture included ingredients like milk thistle, which is known for its liver-healing properties, dandelion root to detoxify the liver, and turmeric, a powerful anti-inflammatory. She also included some local herbs unique to our region, believed to strengthen the immune system. I was instructed to take the herbal concoction twice a day and to follow a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and plenty of water to help my body heal. I committed to the regimen, hopeful yet cautious. The first few weeks were challenging. The herbal drink had a strong, bitter taste, and I often felt like giving up. But I began to notice small changes. My energy levels slowly improved, and the jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) started to fade. Encouraged by these signs, I continued with the treatment. Months passed, and the improvements were undeniable. My liver function tests, which had been alarming before, showed significant improvement. The constant fatigue was replaced by a renewed sense of vitality. I was finally starting to feel like myself again.

My experience with hepatitis B taught me the value of keeping an open mind and exploring different paths to healing. While modern medicine plays a crucial role in treating many conditions, traditional herbal remedies can also offer incredible benefits, especially when used responsibly and under the guidance of knowledgeable practitioners. Today, I’m fully recovered and living a healthy life. I often share my story with others who are struggling with similar health issues. While I always recommend consulting with healthcare professionals, I also encourage people to consider the potential of natural remedies. My journey to healing through herbs was a testament to the power of nature and the wisdom passed down through generations. In the end, it wasn’t just the herbs that cured me; it was a combination of hope, tradition, and the incredible resilience of the human body.

My journey has inspired me to stay curious and open-minded about the many ways we can achieve health and well-being.

Adejoh Bill Williams

Anyigba Kogi State University

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *