By Matthew Denis
As part of their Corporate Social Responsibility, the Kwara State Society for Gastroenterology and Hepatology in Nigeria (SOGHIN) on Monday embarked on road walk to sensitise the public on the importance of being free from hepatitis infection.
The walk which began at the Ostrich Bakery axis along Ibrahim Taiwo Road ended at the Ilorin General Hospital as members of the professional association were seen distributing flyers and educating motorists and pedestrians on various routes of transmission and prevention of the deadly infection.
At Ilorin General Hospital, the SOGHIN conducted free test for scores of people on hepatitis B and C. The exercise was also carried out at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH).
Speaking on the exercise, the Team Leader, a professor of Medicine, Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Abdulfatai Bamidele Olokoba said, “Viral hepatitis has become a global public health problem and it is significant enough for the World Health Organization (WHO) to set aside a special day which is 28th July of every year to create awareness on the impact of viral hepatitis.
“It is instructive to note that 400 million people have evidence of infection with hepatitis B virus and as many as one million people globally die annually from hepatitis B, liver cirrhosis (liver cancer). Similarly, about 200 million globally have chronic hepatitis C infection, with about 350,000 people dying annually from HCV-related diseases. Hepatitis B and C viruses have shared route of infection. It is also well known that quite a number of people who have infection with viral hepatitis are unaware of it or have asymptomatic infection.
Olokoba who is also the Chief Medical Director of Ilorin General Hospital stressed that the theme of this year’s event is; ‘Eliminate hepatitis, finding the missing millions’. Those who are unaware of their hepatitis status, may only become aware when they are symptomatic and at that stage it might be too late.
He said the essence of this year’s campaign is basically to create awareness and to find people who are asymptomatic and to treat them at the appropriate time as hepatitis B and C have become a global public health problem.
“As part of our own contribution in Nigeria, and Kwara State, we members of SOGHIN kick started our activities through media talk on television last Friday, and also today with a 2 kilometres walk in the commercial centre of Ilorin metropolis to engage, educate and distribute flyers to members of the public”.
He added that from the mode of spread, the transmission of the contagious disease is actually encouraged by certain socio-cultural practices such as sexual contacts, transfusion of blood, scarification marks, tattooing, tribal marks, needle-stick injury, circumcision and use of unsterilised instruments among others.