Dr Bello Kumo, a consultant Gastroenterologist with Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, says Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) is more infectious than HIV.
Kumo stated this in a paper entitled “Face to Face with Hepatitis B: Cost and Burden”, presented at a public lecture organised by Kashim Ibrahim Fellows (KIF) in Kaduna on Thursday.
The consultant, who expressed concern that not many people have knowledge about the disease, added that multitude of patients were not identified early enough and managed.
He explained that the virus could be transmitted through contact with blood and body fluid, adding that it could infect nearly everyone that came into contact with anyone suffering from it through sharp objects and open wounds.
According to him, there is no known cure for chronic HBV, stressing that prevention remains the best option.
He added that “but to prevent, people must first know their status so that if they are negative, they can be vaccinated, which gives up to 95 per cent prevention.
“And those who tested positive can begin treatment and managing the virus to avoid its spread.”
Dr Muhammad Saleh, a medical doctor, described HBV as a silent killer, stressing the need for massive awareness campaign.
Saleh said in his lecture on “Hepatitis B: Finding the Missing Millions”, that not much would be achieved if infected persons were not located and placed on treatment.
He noted that “HBV has been silently ravaging the country’s population. There is need for prevention through awareness, community sensitisation and scaling-up of screening services.”
According to the WHO, the following are the key facts about Hepatitis B:
1. Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
2. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person and not through casual contact.
3. About 2 billion people worldwide have been infected with the virus and about 360 million live with chronic infection. An estimated 600 000 persons die each year due to the acute
or chronic consequences of hepatitis B
4. About 25% of adults who become chronically infected during childhood later die from liver cancer or cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) caused by the chronic infection.
5. The hepatitis B virus is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
6. Hepatitis B virus is an important occupational hazard for health workers.
7. Hepatitis B is preventable with a safe and effective vaccine.