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