There are over 1.216 billion people in Africa and out of this number, 70 million are living with hepatitis, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

It is a period to raise awareness on the disease as nations mark World Hepatitis Day.

Approximately 325 million people are living with either hepatitis B virus infection (HBV) or hepatitis C virus infection (HVC) globally.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, in a message to mark “World Hepatitis Day 2017’’ in Abuja on Friday, called for a global response to address viral hepatitis and achieve total elimination of the disease by 2030.

According to Moeti, the first Global Hepatitis Report, produced by WHO in 2017, estimates that the disease caused more than 136,000 deaths in Africa in 2015 alone.

hepatitis liver disease.
Hepatitis affects the liver

She further said that unfortunately, most people with chronic viral hepatitis were not aware of their status and very few people could access testing and treatment in the region.

Report also showed that only 9% of HBV infected people and 20% of HCV infected people had been tested and diagnosed.

Also Read: 9 Things You Should Know About Your Liver

The African regional director said out of those diagnosed with HBV infection, 8% were on treatment while 7% of those diagnosed with HCV infection started treatment in 2015.

“Five viruses are responsible for most cases of viral hepatitis which is an inflammation of the liver due to a viral infection.

“These are the Hepatitis A Virus (HAV), Hepatitis B Virus (HBV), Hepatitis C Virus (HCV), Hepatitis D Virus (HDV) and Hepatitis E Virus (HEV).

“All the viruses can cause acute hepatitis, but only HBV and HCV frequently cause chronic hepatitis which can lead to scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) and primary liver cancer.

“The HBV and HCV cause 96 per cent of deaths from viral hepatitis around the world. The epidemic caused by HBV affects mostly the African and Western Pacific regions.

“It is possible to eliminate viral hepatitis. The widespread use of hepatitis B vaccine in infants has considerably reduced the incidence of new chronic HBV infections.

“Other measures include prevention of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B which includes the birth dose vaccination, safe blood supplies and improving injection safety in healthcare settings.

She said ensuring high-level of sanitation, access to safe food and water were also effective interventions for preventing and controlling epidemics of hepatitis A virus and hepatitis E virus.

Moeti further urged member states to strengthen their national programmes by introducing hepatitis services through a public health approach and rapidly scale up testing and treatment services to benefit all.

Watch a video of a traditional medicine promoter claiming leaves can cure a lot of diseases.

It is not clear if there is any that can cure hepatitis though.