Prevent Hepatitis: Act Now

WHO media release

World Hepatitis Day 2014 poster
World Hepatitis Alliance

It is estimated that 1.45 million people die from viral hepatitis each year, and nearly 40% of global deaths occur in the Western Pacific. It is more than the combined death toll from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria in our region.

On World Hepatitis Day on 28 July, the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Western Pacific Region calls on policy-makers, health workers and the public to take action to stop infection and death from hepatitis B and C.

Viral hepatitis is preventable and treatable

Hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cancer, cirrhosis and death. Hepatitis B is often transmitted during childbirth or in early childhood through close contact between a child and an infected family member or playmate. Hepatitis C is also blood borne, the virus is most commonly transmitted through unsafe injection practices; unsterile medical equipment in health-care settings; and unscreened blood and blood products.

Viet Nam bears high burden from viral hepatitis. Among adults in Viet Nam, one in every 10 people is likely infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis C, although low prevalence in general population, it is extremely high among people who inject drugs. One in every two men who inject drugs is likely infected with hepatitis C.

In recent years, effective medicines are developed to treat the viral hepatitis. Medication such as tenofovir and entecavir have shown they can suppress hepatitis B virus , halting - and potentially reversing - the disease's progress. The vast majority of hepatitis C cases can now be cured in just three months. This type of treatment, however, remains unaffordable for most in the region.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Health of Viet Nam approved the National Action Plan for viral hepatitis prevention and control. The action plan will guide national response to strengthen surveillance, prevention of transmission, and people’s access to diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis in Viet Nam.

“Hepatitis is preventable and treatable”, says Dr Masaya Kato, the Officer-in-Charge at WHO Viet Nam Country Office. “As a large number of people in Viet Nam are affected by hepatitis viruses, especially hepatitis B and C, we need investment and concerted actions. We should have no-one suffering and dying from viral hepatitis”.

Have your infants vaccinated

Hepatitis B vaccinations in Viet Nam dropped by 20% from 2012 to 2013 resulting in an excess of estimated 90 000 chronic infections which will lead to over 17 000 premature deaths of these babies, according to the scientific journal, Vaccine.

The article’s authors, epidemiologists from Viet Nam and the World Health Organization, have determined that the vast majority of these deadly infections could have been prevented if the babies were vaccinated starting at birth.

Millions of doses of hepatitis B vaccine are administered around the world each year, and since its development in the 1980s, there has never been a documented death directly caused by the hepatitis B vaccine.

To combat this deadly disease, the Government of Viet Nam provides a series of four hepatitis B vaccinations to all infants free-of-charge with the first dose provided within 24 hours of life. This first dose is critical in ensuring that the baby is not infected at birth or during the first month of life.

The article’s authors strongly recommend that the benefits of vaccination and the consequences of non-vaccination be communicated urgently to the public to address the epidemic of hepatitis B in the country.

For more information, please contact:

Ms. Tran Thi Loan
Tel: +84 (0) 4 38 500 100
Email: media.vtn@wpro.who.int

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