8 million Vietnamese people infected with hepatitis B or C virus : WHO

In Vietnam, an estimated eight million people are infected with hepatitis B or C virus and liver cancer is the second leading cause of death in men.

An article by experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) Vietnam Country Office, published this week, highlights the considerable burden of hepatitis B and C in people in Vietnam.

People who inject drugs have a particularly high prevalence of hepatitis C infection, with up to 98.5 per cent of them infected with the virus.

“Developing national policies for the diagnosis and treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C infections are critical priorities to prevent people from developing cirrhosis and liver cancer, and to avoid the associated deaths,” says Dr. Fabio Mesquita, Senior Advisor on HIV at the WHO Vietnam Country Office.

In Vietnam, routine immunization for hepatitis B has been implemented for the past ten years. In 2011, fifty-five percent of newborns received a dose of hepatitis B vaccination at birth, and the coverage for the additional three dose vaccination reached 95per cent.

According to a 2011 survey, this resulted in a reduction of hepatitis B infection in children aged five in Vietnam to approximately two percent.

On July 28 this year marks the second World Hepatitis Day. The World Hepatitis Day was created two years ago as an opportunity to raise awareness of the different forms of hepatitis. Globally, approximately 500 million people, or 1 in every 12, live with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Yet awareness of the infections and their risk factors remains very low. If left untreated and unmanaged, hepatitis B and C can lead to liver cancer or cirrhosis. An estimated 57 per cent of cases of liver cirrhosis and 78 per cent of cases of primary liver cancer result from hepatitis B or C infection.

Hepatitis B and C also kill approximately one million people every year.

WHO today launches a new framework for global action to prevent and control viral hepatitis infection. WHO is currently developing new guidance for screening, care and treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C infections and is supporting countries to make that treatment more accessible and affordable.

By Uyen Phuong

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