World Hepatitis `B’ Day: Pregnant women in Anambra to receive free testing, vaccine on Hepatitis B, C


Pregnant women in Anambra are to receive free testing and vaccines on Hepatitis B, C at Antenatal Care in three General Hospitals in the state.The General Hospitals are: Onitsha, Enugwu-Ukwu and Ekwulobia.The exercise was part of activities lined up to commemorate this year’s World Hepatitis B day.

Anambra State Ministry of Health with support from the State Government would be facilitating the exercise, aimed at encouraging pregnant mothers and the public to know their status on the disease.

Dr Vincent Okpala, Anambra State Commissioner for Health said the exercise was in line with the state government’s effort at eradicating hepatitis among pregnant women as well as ensuring zero hepatitis in the state. The commissioner, while briefing the press on World Hepatitis Day, said the Federal Government released a National Policy emphasizing the need to institute a hepatitis programme across states.

He explained that viral hepatitis was the inflammation of the liver caused by one or more of five main hepatic viruses.These viruses display similar symptoms and potential to cause liver disease to varying degrees; they however differ significantly in regards to epidemiology, prevention, care and treatment. The plan is to focus on the awareness, screening, prevention and treatment of viral hepatitis.

Anambra State is proud to be among the first states in Nigeria to implement the policy,’’ he said.Strategic plan to manage viral hepatitis from 2018-2022 was also launched.The state successfully launched the State Hepatitis programme in November 2017 at State AIDS and STI Control Programme (SASCP) through the State Ministry of Health in line with the National Strategic Plan.

Statewide screening and awareness creation across the three Geopolitical zones in Anambra was conducted in 2017 on `Hepatitis B and C’, with support from the state government and the implementing partner, the ROCHE group.

“From the screening, 23 persons tested positive for hepatitis B and 16 for Hepatitis C, among the positive patients only 4 were eligible for treatment and were all treated with the support from the government.

“Then the introduction of Anambra State Health Insurance Agency (ASHIA) by Gov. Willie Obiano has helped positive clients to receive treatment at an affordable rate.

“State ministry of health in collaboration with Rotary Club, Awka conducted a 2-day free screening on hepatitis B and C.

“So, during the last celebration, collaboration with Rotary club tested no fewer than 531 persons for HEP B, C with 2 positives for HEP B and they were referred for treatment.’’

Dr Okpala noted that World Hepatitis Day (WHD) was one of the ways to create awareness and encourage people to know their status, especially those at risk, thereby making Anambra hepatitis free.

“The modes of transmission for Viral Hepatitis B and C are mainly through contact with infectious blood, semen and other bodily fluids.

“Others are births from a Hepatitis B-infected mother, sexual contact with a Hepatitis B-infected person, sharing needle sticks or sharp instrument injuries.

“Fight against hepatitis is everyone’s responsibility, the following preventive strategies can help curb and eliminate hepatitis in the state.

Prevention of harmful cultural practices such as: traditional circumcision, tribal marks, scarification, if not done in medically sterile settings.

There was awareness creation among healthcare workers in communities on importance of blood screening as well as dangers of improper management of blood and contaminated injection devices.

Ensuring adequate immunisation of children; taking cognisance of monovalent hepatitis B vaccine (HBV) birth dose which is recommended for all newborns and should be accompanied by prior testing.

Vaccination should be done only if Hepatitis B surface Antigen (HBsAg) was negative as a best practice approach and other preventive measures.

According to him, the Ministry in this year’s celebration would screen and vaccinate pregnant women at Antenatal Care centres across geopolitical zones.

The commissioner commended Gov. Willie Obiano for his support and unrelenting fight in making the state hepatitis free.

Dr Okpala also commended efforts of the public health department and the State AIDS STI Control Programme (SASCP) unit where the hepatitis programme was situated.

He praised Director Public Health, Dr Uchechukwu Onyejimbe and Dr Afam Anaeme (SASCP Coordinator) for championing the course of hepatitis in Anambra.

He called on professional bodies to support the awareness creation, capacity building and regulation of service provision.

The commissioner appealed to the pharmaceutical companies to support advocacy, research and provision of affordable drugs and vaccines.