Dr Sherifat Sulaiman, a Consultant Microbiologist, at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), has advised people against having multiple sexual partners, in order to guard against Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.
Sulaiman made the call on Sunday while delivering a Virtual Public lecture entitled: ” Hepatitis B: the Silent Killer, Causes and Concerns”, organised by The Criterion, Association of Muslim Women in Business and Professions, Kwara District.
She observed that apart from having multiple sexual partners, people could get infected through sharing needles, toothbrush, blood transfusion, unprotected sexual intercourse and mother to child transmission, among others.
According to her, HBV is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV/AIDS, adding that an estimated 257 million people around the globe had chronic HBV infection.
“The virus worldwide results in an estimated 887,000 deaths per year,,” she said.
The microbiologist said 15 to 20 per cent of HBV would progress to liver cancer and liver cirrhosis, which is difficult to treat, noting that about two-thirds of those with HBV were Asymptomatic, only to present severe complications later in life.
“Hepatitis is a general term used for inflammation of the liver. It has various causes. The most common cause of hepatitis is infection with one of the five hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D, or E).
“Other potential causes include, lack of blood supply to the liver, poison, Autoimmune disorders, excessive alcohol use and taking certain medications among others,” she said.
She pointed out that for those with acute (short-lived) hepatitis B, the body might be able to fight the infection on its own.
“This means you may not need treatment. Your doctor will help you manage your symptoms and monitor your condition, while your body works to clear hepatitis B from your system.
“If you have chronic (long-lasting) hepatitis B, your doctor will refer you to a gastroenterologist or other subspecialist, who treats people with chronic liver problems.
“Treatment may take a year or more, depending on the severity of the infection and one’s response to treatment,” she said.
The expert said vaccines were available to prevent hepatitis B and that it was now routinely given in the first year of life to all newborn infants.
“This vaccine should be given to people who are at high risk for this illness, such as healthcare workers, all children, people who travel to areas where the infection is widespread, drug users, and those who have multiple sex partners,” she said.
Earlier, in her address of welcome, Hajia Hauwa Tajudeen, Amirah of The Criterion, Kwara District, said the virtual public lecture was meant to educate them on some critical issues affecting them, so as to guard against such predicament.
She added that education is the power that saved us a great deal, stressing that the topic of discourse was very apt at this period when so many people were carriers of some diseases but were ignorant that they had them.