1 in 10 Vietnamese infected with hepatitis B

By An Hong   August 30, 2016 | 11:58 am GMT+7

The virus is the main cause of liver disease and cancer in the country.

Vietnam has some of the highest rates of viral hepatitis B and C in the Asia Pacific region, and the infections have had serious consequences on victims, their families and other contacts, the Ministry of Health told the press on Monday.

A joint study carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Vietnamese Health Ministry estimated that the Southeast Asian country currently has as many as 8.7 million people infected with hepatitis B and about one million with hepatitis C.

Official statistics show that in 2015, hepatitis B killed more than 23,000 people in Vietnam, and a further 6,000 deaths were directly linked to hepatitis C.

Hepatitis B is mainly transmitted through childbirth, from mother to child, according to the Preventive Medicine Department under the Health Ministry.

It is estimated that in Vietnam, chronic hepatitis B infection rates are 10-20 percent among pregnant women, which translates into roughly 55,000 infants born with the virus each year.

Health experts said those newborns have a 90 percent chance of being chronically infected and that they can pass the virus to other people.

Drug users are at a high risk of contracting viral hepatitis C from needles. About 40 percent of people with HIV also have hepatitis C and 54 percent of them are injection drug users, the study found.

Viral hepatitis B and C infections are the major cause of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer in Vietnam.

Around 10,000 Vietnamese people die every year from cirrhosis complications and liver cancer, according to the WHO.

Despite the fact that up to 40 percent of infected cases could develop liver cancer, many Vietnamese people are unaware of prevention and treatment of the virus.

It is estimated that 5 percent of patients chronically infected with viral hepatitis are unaware of the disease and 1 percent of them do not seek treatment, said the Preventive Medicine Department.

According to the WHO, a vaccine given within 24 hours of birth could prevent most cases of transmission.

In Vietnam, 65 percent of new-born babies in 2015 received the vaccination on the day of their birth.

Viral hepatitis B and C are highly infectious, often transmitted through blood and unprotected sexual intercourse.

Symptoms include tiredness, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and unusually yellow urine.

Health experts said spreading information about the disease and how it can be prevented is essential.

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