Monday, June 27, 2011

Govt prepares for WHO’s World Hepatitis Day

Govt prepares for WHO’s World Hepatitis Day

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 06/28/2011 10:42 PM

The Health Ministry is preparing a series of events ahead of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) first official World Hepatitis Day on July 28.

World Hepatitis Day will have the theme “Time to Fight Hepatitis”, a press release from the Health Ministry said.

The ministry is planning a symposium on viral hepatitis, hepatitis treatment training for doctors, educational public seminars in Jakarta, Surabaya, Denpasar, Yogyakarta and Medan and a poster competition for elementary school students, spokeswoman Murti Utami said in the press release made available Friday.

Ali Sulaiman, the head of the hepatitis working group at the ministry, said the prevalence of hepatitis in Indonesia was high: 1 percent to 2 percent for both hepatitis B and C. The number of Indonesians with hepatitis C was even higher than people with HIV/AIDS, Ali said.

“Hepatitis B and C are very dangerous because they can lead to not only acute but chronic diseases and also to death,” Ali said. The infection can also debilitate sufferers, reducing their productivity, Ali said.

Hepatitis C was even more dangerous, he said, as it did not show any symptoms until it had developed into chronic cirrhosis or even liver cancer 10 to 15 years later.

Ali quoted national hepatitis surveillance data from 2009 that said about 3.4 million people in Indonesia had hepatitis C. The global figure reached an estimated 170 million people, with the Asia/Pacific and Africa/the Middle East contributing 80 million and 72 million, respectively.

Of the 3.4 million patients in Indonesia, more than 60 percent or 2 million people were infected by the “genotype” virus, a virus that is difficult for therapy to handle. Of the total, for about 450,000 people, their hepatitis will develop into cirrhosis in 15 to 20 years and 14,000 will die of liver cancer eventually, the data said.

Director of communicable diseases at the ministry, H.M. Subuh, said the government had included the hepatitis B vaccine as a government program since 1997.

Indonesia proposed to the WHO Executive Board to make hepatitis a global issue by conducting comprehensive treatment stipulated in a World Health Assembly Resolution on Viral Hepatitis.

The proposal was accepted by the board in May of last year.

The WHO said hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E constitute a major global health risk with around 350 million people chronically infected with hepatitis B and 170 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C.

“The first official WHO World Hepatitis Day is marked to increase the awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis and the diseases that it causes,” WHO said.

WHO advised countries to strengthen the prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases; increase hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration into national immunization programs; and coordinate a global response to hepatitis.

People get hepatitis B and C from unsterile needles used in acupuncture or for injections. Sharing shaving kits or toothbrushes and unsafe sex can also spread the hepatitis B virus, the ministry said.

Both hepatitis B and C can be “cured”, meaning the amount of the virus in the body can be contained to an undetected level for the B virus and to “sustained virological response” for the C virus.

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