Strides made in shielding toddlers from hepatitis B

Updated: 2012-06-13 10:30

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

  Comments() Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

China has achieved the Asia-Pacific regional goal of reducing chronic hepatitis B infection rates to less than 1% among children up to age 5, the World Health Organization said, calling it a remarkable public health accomplishment.

The conclusion was reached by an independent panel under the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific after reviewing documents China submitted and was released this month. China submitted its request in March.

"This signifies China's great success in hepatitis B control and that the prevalence among children under-5s is in line with most industrial countries," said Wei Lai, head of the Hepatology Institute at Peking University.

Ten years ago, the infection rate on the Chinese mainland stood at 5 to 6 percent of children age 5 and younger, among the highest rates worldwide, he noted.

The reduction heralds a huge decline on the mainland in the number of liver cancer and cirrhosis cases, which are caused mainly by hepatitis B, when these children become adults, he said.

"That will greatly help improve public health among the Chinese and benefit the country's economic development," he said.

Hepatitis B, is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause acute and chronic disease. It is transmitted through contact with infected blood or other body fluids, not by casual contact, according to the WHO.

By 2006, China had lowered its high prevalence rate of 8 percent among the general public to 7.18 percent, according to the ministry of Health.

"The Health Ministry has set the goal of reducing the rate to less than 2 percent within 10 years," Wei said.

But he conceded that would require great effort.

China began a hepatitis B inoculation campaign in 1992 and has since protected 80 million people from infection, mostly children under 5 years of age, on the Chinese mainland.

Currently, about 10 percent of Chinese live with hepatitis B or C, which cause the majority of viral hepatitis infections on the mainland and about 350,000 related deaths each year, according to the Ministry of Health.