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Health experts say diseases of digestive system on increase

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LAGOS – Some health experts on Friday said that gastroenteritis had become one of the most common digestive tract diseases in Nigeria.

They made the observation in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia, says:  “Gastroenteritis is a medical condition characterised by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract that involves both the stomach (“gastro”-) and the small intestine (“entero”-).

“It results in some combination of diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain and cramping. Gastroenteritis has also been referred to as gastro, stomach bug, and stomach virus.”

Prof. Olusegun Ojo, Consultant Hepatologist, Obafemi Awolowo University,Ile-Ife,  said, ” Gastroenteritis is usually caused by viral infections, bacteria and parasites; food-borne illnesses can also be agents”.

“Many presentations of digestive tract infections in health facilities are gastroenteritis, but many people who have such symptoms may be diagnosed as having food poisoning when actually it may be gastroenteritis.

“The degree of seriousness also varies, but it is now becoming common. There may not be accurate statistics because it is not all cases that may be documented as such,” he said.

According to Ojo, reducing the burden of gastroenteritis will entail creating awareness on the diseases.

“To tackle gastroenteritis, the steps will be to dispel ignorance, create awareness about the diseases, their nature, the way they present, how to treat them and if they are not treated, the consequences.

“However, these days, we know that there is politics in the risk management, as well as the political economy of these diseases,” he said.

He urged all tiers of government to be committed to tackling gastroenteritis diseases and other diseases of public health concerns in the country.

“We need to realise the requirements of the governments to provide facilities, education and other necessary criteria for people to keep healthy as far as the diseases of the liver and gut are concerned.

“The presentations of these diseases are high in the tropics, especially in Nigeria, mainly because of our environment which is extensively contaminated.

“This is because of poor public health, poor personal hygiene,poor feeding pattern, unhealthy diet  and lack of facilities and education.

“So, we need to have health education and this is the primary requirement of the government,” he said.

Also, Dr  Charles Onyekwere, Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist,Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said that members of the public should  improve on their state of hygiene.

“A whole lot of awareness and education should be channeled toward improving the state of personal and public hygiene. People should be conscious of their personal hygiene, from food, water, clothes and the environment.

“A lot of factors make the situation worse, and they include lack of infrastructure, indiscriminate services by healthcare practitioners, late presentation of cases, ignorance and other things.

“People should know that if not properly handled, these diseases could lead to hepatitis, chronic diseases and other life-threatening ailments,” he said. (NAN)

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