Hep­ati­tis B vac­cine to be manda­tory for ba­bies in UK

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

LON­DON: All UK ba­bies are to be vac­ci­nated against a deadly can­cer-caus­ing virus, which ex­perts fear is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly com­mon due to im­mi­gra­tion.

They will be in­oc­u­lated against hep­ati­tis B, which can trig­ger liver can­cer, in a new jab that will also pro­tect against five other dis­eases.

Ev­ery baby born from Au­gust 1 will re­ceive doses of the “Hexa” jab at 4, 8 and 16 weeks.

His­tor­i­cally, in­fec­tion rates of the blood-borne virus have been so low in Bri­tain that it has not been a ma­jor is­sue.

But there is now se­ri­ous con­cern that the num­ber of cases is rising, due largely to im­mi­gra­tion from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

In some sub-Sa­ha­ran African coun­tries, one in seven is a car­rier. East Asia and parts of Eastern Europe are also hotspots.

Pub­lic Health Eng­land (PHE) said the de­ci­sion to in­oc­u­late all ba­bies, rather than just those deemed at high risk, was taken be­cause a “cost-ef­fec­tive com­bi­na­tion vac­cine” was now avail­able.

The jab also pro­tects against diph­the­ria, tetanus, whoop­ing cough, po­lio and Hae­mophilus in­fluen­zae type b (Hib).

Ev­i­dence sug­gests high rates of im­mi­gra­tion are be­hind rising cases of chronic in­fec­tion, where the virus lies largely dor­mant – but in­cur­able – in the body.

In 2012, PHE re­ported that 19 out of ev­ery 20 an­te­na­tal women test­ing pos­i­tive for hep­ati­tis B in Lon­don were born abroad. Of those, nearly half were born in Africa.

“Longterm in­fec­tions in mi­grants are es­ti­mated to ac­count for around 96% of all new longterm hep­ati­tis B in­fec­tions in the UK,” PHE con­cluded.

More than 500 000 peo­ple moved to Bri­tain last year, half of whom came from out­side the EU. A quar­ter of mothers giv­ing birth on the NHS are now for­eign-born.

Fresh data from PHE in­di­cates that the num­ber of preg­nant women in­fected with the virus is in­creas­ing fast. A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of its “green book” for doc­tors, from 2013, stated that about one in 700 was hep­ati­tis B-pos­i­tive.

But a new ver­sion, pub­lished three days ago, shows the na­tional fig­ure is now one in 250. Rates are higher than one in 100 in some in­ner-city ar­eas. Paul Des­mond, of the Hep­ati­tis B Pos­i­tive Trust, claimed po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness had al­lowed an “un­seen epi­demic” to de­velop. “We’ve in­vited the world – and for­got­ten its medicine,” he said.

Hep­ati­tis B is a virus that at­tacks the liver, po­ten­tially lead­ing to cir­rho­sis and liver can­cer.

Trans­mis­sion is via blood or other bod­ily flu­ids. That means it can be spread by sex or in­fected nee­dles – but also by some­thing as in­nocu­ous as shar­ing a tooth­brush.

It is 50 to 100 times more in­fec­tious than HIV.

Hep­ati­tis B can sur­vive out­side the body for at least a week, so ob­jects con­tam­i­nated with dried blood pose a risk. World­wide, 250 mil­lion peo­ple are in­fected with hep­ati­tis B, and it kills 900 000 a year. Worst af­fected coun­tries are in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, East Asia and the Pa­cific.

Treat­ment costs for those with long-term in­fec­tion can ex­ceed £10 000 (about R170 000) a year. – Mail On Sun­day

Rising in­fec­tions with im­mi­gra­tion from de­vel­op­ing coun­tries

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.