China makes progress in curbing hepatitis infection

Updated: Jul 29, 2021 Xinhua Print
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BEIJING -- More than 2,280 hepatitis B patients had been clinically cured as of June thanks to a project on chronic hepatitis B treatment launched in China.

A total of 13,679 patients were treated under this project by the end of June since it was launched in 2018 by the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control (CFHPC).

"China has a large number of hepatitis B patients but a relatively low diagnosis and treatment rate, leading to a heavy burden in treating liver cirrhosis and liver cancer caused by its infection," said Yang Xizhong, executive vice chairman of the CFHPC, on World Hepatitis Day, which falls on Wednesday.

It is estimated that about 86 million hepatitis B virus carriers live in China, of which about 28 million need treatment. Besides, there are approximately 4.5 million people with hepatitis C in China.

China has made remarkable progress in viral hepatitis prevention and control. Programs to immunize the public against hepatitis B -- especially vaccination for the newborn -- since the 1990s and effective measures to reduce mother-to-child transmission have curbed infections at its source.

Through decades of efforts, China has cut the positive rate of hepatitis B virus surface antigen among people under five years old to 0.32 percent, achieving the World Health Organization (WHO) hepatitis B control target in the Western Pacific region ahead of schedule.

WHO regional office for the Western Pacific has hailed China's endeavor at combating hepatitis B, lauding the efforts as a great achievement in the field of public health and setting a good example for other developing countries.

About two decades ago, China began to roll out free hepatitis B vaccination for all children. Today's children are a generation with almost no hepatitis B. This landmark progress signifies that China has greatly reduced the number of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis cases in future generations, noted Gauden Galea, WHO Representative in China.

The Western Pacific Region accounts for 40 percent (130 million) of the global hepatitis B and C patients. Liver cancer is the top cause of death in most countries, and is mostly due to chronic hepatitis B and C, according to WHO.

Most regions in China have included the treatment of viral hepatitis in the healthcare and medical insurance system and several direct acting antiviral drugs for hepatitis C treatment have been approved for sale in China since 2017.

The World Hepatitis Day, which is observed every year on July 28 under the initiative of the World Health Organization, brings the world together under the single aim of raising awareness on the global burden of viral hepatitis and bringing about a real change.

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