To dis­sem­i­nate the key in­for­ma­tion on hepati­tis B, the World Hepati­tis day ob­served

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To know more about the vi­ral hepati­tis and to dis­sem­i­nate key in­for­ma­tion, for the first time in Bhutan the day on World Hepati­tis day on the themed ‘know Hepati­tis-Act now was ob­served last Thurs­day in the cap­i­tal.

The vi­ral hepati­tis in­fec­tion which is widely spread, af­fect­ing about 400 mil­lion peo­ple world­wide which is more than 10 times the num­ber of peo­ple in­fected with HIV.

Health Min­is­ter Ly­onpo Tandin Wangchuk said that about an es­ti­mated of about 1.45 mil­lion peo­ple died of the dis­ease in 2013-up from less than a mil­lion in 1990.

There are up to 50 mil­lion peo­ple with chronic hepati­tis C in­fec­tion in South Asia be­cause of the asymp­to­matic na­ture of chronic hepati­tis B and hepati­tis C. “Most peo­ple in­fected with these are not aware of their sta­tus un­til they have symp­toms of cir­rho­sis or liver can- cer many years later,” Ly­onpo said.

Ly­onpo also said that the vi­ral hepati­tis is a group of in­fec­tious dis­ease that is hepati­tis A, B,C, Dan dE that have been af­fect­ing mil­lions of peo­ple world­wide, caus­ing acute and chronic liver dis­ease. It is es­ti­mated about 1.4 mil­lion peo­ple were be­ing killed ev­ery year, mostly from the hepati­tis B and C.

While, Hepati­tis B and C in­fec­tions are trans­mit­ted through con­tam­i­nated blood as well as through con­tam­i­nated nee­dles and sy­ringes in health­care set­ting and among peo­ple who in­ject drugs. The virus can also be trans­mit­ted through un­safe sex and from an in­fected mother to her newborn child.

How­ever, avail­abil­ity of hy­gienic and clean food and wa­ter can re­duce the risk of hepati­tis A and E in­fec­tion.

Bhutan is also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­creas­ing in­ci­dence of vi­ral hepati­tis, mainly the hepati­tis B in­fec­tions. “The health fa­cil­ity based data shows that, hepati­tis B is recorded be­tween 2-2.5 per­cent in gen­eral pop­u­la­tion, which is much higher than HIV preva­lence,” he said.

Mean­while, hepati­tis B vac­cine is in­tro­duced in Bhutan in 1996 fol­low­ing the rec­om­men­da­tion from the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO), and Bhutan is one of the first coun­tries to in­tro­duce the birth dose Hepati­tis B vac­ci­na­tion fully in­te­grated into rou­tine im­mu­niza­tion sched­ule.

Press re­lease from min­istry of health stated that Hepati­tis B by na­ture is far more in­fec­tious than HIV and treat­ments are pro­vided for in­di­vid­u­als di­ag­nosed with acute hepati­tis B in­fec­tions.

Fol­low­ing a sero­log­i­cal sur­vey that doc­u­mented bur­den, the coun­try in­te­grated hepati­tis B vac­cine to the Ex­panded Pro­gramme on Im­mu­niza­tion (EPI) in 1997.

Bhutan will carry out na­tion­wide hepati­tis sero­preva­lence study by end of the year. “This is ex­pected to in­form the pub­lic health strate­gic in­ter­ven­tions for pre­ven­tion and treat­ment of hepati­tis cases in the coun­try,” Ly­onpo said.

“With bet­ter in­for­ma­tion and knowl­edge about hepati­tis risks, peo­ple can pre­vent them­selves from get­ting in­fected and pass­ing the in­fec­tions on oth­ers,” Ly­onpo added.

Ly­onpo said that rec­og­niz­ing the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the pop­u­la­tion to hepati­tis B in­fec­tion in Bhutan, the Min­istry of Health will be de­vis­ing in­no­va­tive strate­gies and in­ter­ven­tions that are best suited in the con­text of the coun­try.

Mean­while, Ly­onpo urged the health work­ers to record the in­ci­dence for bet­ter de­ci­sion mak­ing and also the pub­lic to avail hepati­tis B rapid screen­ing fa­cil­i­ties made widely avail­able at all levels of health fa­cil­i­ties.

WHO’s Dr Su­raj Man Shrestha read mes­sage of the WHO Re­gional Di­rec­tor of health, Dr Poonam Khetra­pal Singh’s dur­ing the day. The mes­sage stated that to mark the day means to pre­vent most of hepati­tis cases from oc­cur­ring in the first place, and have a range of pow­er­ful tools to treat the dis­ease. The mes­sage also stated that, “Given the ef­fec­tive tools and strate­gies for pre­ven­tion and treat­ment are at our level, we can­not-and we must not-ac­cept the fact that hepati­tis should kill hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in our re­gion ev­ery year.”

The vi­sion of elim­i­nat­ing hepati­tis as a pub­lic health threat by 2030 can be achieved, if peo­ple and coun­tries af­fected by this dis­ease were bet­ter equipped and en­abled to “know hepati­tis” and “Act now”.

Ob­serv­ing the World Hepati­tis Day, Bhutan joint the global com­mu­ni­ties to ex­press the sin­cere con­do­lences for mil­lion who have lost lives to the si­lent epi­demic, and also com­mits to sup­port for the roll-out the first Global Health Sec­tor Strat­egy on vi­ral hepati­tis (2016-2021), which was ap­proved dur­ing the Sixty-ninth World Health Assem­bly held in May, 2006.

Mean­while, the day was or­ga­nized by Na­tional HIV and STIs Con­trol Pro­gram un­der the Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, Min­istry of Health.

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