Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vet helps set up medical centers for Mongolians with hepatitis

'Hospitality' taken to new levels / Vet helps set up medical centers for Mongolians with hepatitis

Takashi Nakamura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer

Nobuyuki Nozawa has been fascinated by Mongolia since he was a child--particularly its people's nomadic lifestyles--but not even he could have foreseen he would end up helping combat viral hepatitis in Ulan Bator.

The 55-year-old veterinarian has helped establish two facilities there to detect and treat viral hepatitis, with the most recent, the Interferon Alpha Hospital, opening earlier this month.

A resident of Arakawa Ward in Tokyo, Nozawa first visited Mongolia in 1988. "[Mongolians] live such interesting lives. Their homes are borderless, beyond horizons. They're deeply attuned to nature and their horses. They ride them as if they were bicycles," he said.

He began making regular visits and registered with a mailing list for Japanese interested in and knowledgeable about the country.

It was through this mailing list that in 1999 he first met Mongolian doctor Jazag Amarsanaa.

Amarsanaa was studying liver and digestive diseases at the University of Tokyo and looking for part-time work. Amarsanaa remained in Japan until 2006, when he headed to the United States for further study. He returned to Mongolia in 2008.

From Amarsanaa, Nozawa learned of the severity of viral hepatitis in Mongolia: About 10 percent of Mongolians are infected with hepatitis B and 10 to 35 percent with hepatitis C. Amarsanaa also told Nozawa he wanted to set up a facility to detect viral hepatitis.

Nozawa and many others contributed money to establish the Happy Veritas medical center which opened two years ago.

Happy Veritas has since tested about 13,000 people for hepatitis; of those, about 70 percent tested positive for either the B or C strains.

It soon became apparent a hospital was also needed to treat hepatitis patients, and Nozawa invested 100,000 dollars (about 8.2 million yen) to help open Interferon Alpha Hospital in the same building as Happy Veritas.

The hospital, which opened on Dec. 16, has 10 staff and 12 beds. Amarsanaa is its president.

Nozawa hopes the establishment of the two medical facilities will help Mongolian people detect hepatitis during its early stages and receive the appropriate treatment.

"By helping hepatitis sufferers in Mongolia, I hope to make as many people as happy as possible," he said.

(Dec. 31, 2010)

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