On the 28th of July every year, the world is reminded and made aware of the menace that is Hepatitis. From yellow eyes to itchy skin to protruding abdomen, hepatitis causes a myriad of discomforting symptoms if not stopped early.  

This year, the theme for the World Hepatitis Day is, ‘We are not waiting,’ and in fact, we can no longer wait. We can no longer wait until the symptoms become life-threatening before we begin treatment. 


Hepatitis simply means inflammation of the liver – in simpler sense, destruction of the liver cells. 

Hepatitis can be caused by a number of factors – infection, alcohol, autoimmunity, drug overdose, or excessive fat. The commonest cause is viral infection, followed by alcohol. These two forms of hepatitis can be prevented and easily treated if noticed on time. Hence, the theme, ‘We are not waiting’. 

Viral Hepatitis is an infection of the liver by one or more of the Hepatitis viruses that leads to liver destruction. The viruses involved are Hepatitis A, B, C, D or E viruses, and they can infect the liver simultaneously. 

Hepatitis A & E – these are both gotten through the faeco-oral route. This means that someone can contract this virus by what they put in their mouth (food), and can share the virus through their infected faeces. They will therefore develop features such as vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, yellowness of the eyes and fever. 

These two viruses do not progress to chronic diseases, meaning that the body either clears it off within 2 to 3 months, or it leads to acute liver failure that requires transplantation. Common food sources include seafood, especially shellfish, if not cooked well. 

Hepatitis B, C & D – these are both gotten through blood and body fluids. Just like HIV, they can be transmitted through blood transfusion, sharing of needles, clippers, blades and other sharps, sexual intercourse or from mother to child.  

Symptoms are similar to Hepatitis A & E; however, they can develop into chronic liver disease (if longer than 6 months), liver failure and even liver cancer. 

Hepatitis D, however, can only infect the liver if there is already a pre-existing Hepatitis B infection. 



As the name implies, this is liver injury that occurs due to alcohol intake. The liver is the primary organ that processes alcohol in the body. When alcohol is ingested for a prolonged period of time or taken in an excessive quantity over a short period of time, it can cause liver damage. 


Of all the viral hepatitis, Hepatitis B and C account for over 97% of all infections. An estimated 354 million people currently live with hepatitis B or C worldwide. 

In Nigeria, there are over 20 million people living with hepatitis B or C or both, and about 80% of those people do not know they have it. 


As this year’s theme dictates, ‘We’re not waiting’. Therefore, we bid you to not wait any longer and to get tested.  

  • Hepatitis can easily be detected by blood tests, and this can be done at a laboratory or in a hospital. 
  • If detected on time, Hepatitis can then be treated with antiviral drugs. 

Asides early detection, we are also not waiting until you get infected.  

  • Viral hepatitis can be prevented with the aid of vaccines.  
  • Hepatitis A and B have readily available vaccines but C& E do not. 
  • Vaccination for Hepatitis B confers protection for Hepatitis D. 

Lifestyle modifications can also help prevent hepatitis: 

  • Alcoholic hepatitis can also be prevented by reducing or totally stopping intake of alcohol. 
  • To prevent faeco-oral Hepatitis A and E, good hygiene practices should be done. Ensure you wash your hands before cooking or eating. 
  • To prevent blood-borne Hepatitis B, C & D, avoid sharing of sharps objects (needles, blades, clippers). 
  • Practice safe sex (use of condoms). 

Dr. Nwachukwu N.O.