Western Pacific Region nearing 2012 milestone in hepatitis B control
HANOI, 27 September 2012 - The World Health Organization (WHO) is optimistic the Western Pacific Region will reach its milestone of reducing the prevalence of hepatitis B infection to less than 2% among children of at least 5 years of age by 2012.
Addressing WHO's governing body, Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said, "Member States can take pride in the fact that the Region as a whole—and at least 30 countries and areas in the Region individually—will likely reach the 2012 milestone."
Dr Shin reported to the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific on efforts to control or eliminate life-threatening vaccine-preventable diseases, including hepatitis B, measles and polio. The Regional Committee is meeting in Hanoi from 24 to 28 September to review WHO's work in the Region and to set future health directions.
With this progress, the Region's Expanded Programme on Immunization Technical Advisory Group and Hepatitis B Expert Resource Panel have recommended setting 2017 as the target year for the goal to reduce hepatitis B infection rates to less than 1%.
Hepatitis B is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease. The virus is transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion, re-use of contaminated needles and syringes, and transmission from mother to child at birth.
The Regional Committee also discussed the polio outbreak in China in 2011, which resulted from an importation of wild poliovirus from Pakistan. China mounted a rapid and vigorous outbreak response, which interrupted transmission less than six months after the onset of the first polio case, allowing the Region to keep its polio-free status.
Dr Shin also reported that the Region is on the verge of eliminating measles. The number of measles cases is now at a historic low in the Region, and about 32 of the Region's 37 countries and areas have likely interrupted endemic measles virus transmission.
The Global Vaccine Action Plan, endorsed by Member States at the May 2012 World Health Assembly, emphasizes that measles elimination and polio eradication goals will only be met by achieving and sustaining high and equitable coverage.
"Reaching every community, with special efforts to reach the underserved, is our way forward," Dr Shin concluded.
For more information or request to interview, please contact:
Ms Marilu Lingad
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1272643638
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 891 4532;
Mr Timothy O'Leary
Mobile (Viet Nam): +84 (0)1252093845
Mobile (Philippines): +63 908 886 8738