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Controlling Hepatitis B

  • 07 Sep 2019
  • 3 min read

Recently, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand became the first four countries in the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia region to have successfully controlled Hepatitis B.

  • When the disease prevalence is reduced to less than 1% among children less than five years of age the Hepatitis B virus is said to be controlled.
  • Hepatitis B infection at a young age turns chronic, causing over 1,00,000 premature deaths annually from liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.
  • Despite the introduction of hepatitis B vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme in 2002 and scaling-up nationwide in 2011, about one million people in India become chronically infected with the virus every year.
  • High prevalence among children aged less than five years has not dropped below 1% due to suboptimal coverage of birth dose in all infants within 24 hours of birth.
  • Hepatitis B birth dose, given in the first 24 hours, helps to prevent vertical transmission from mother to child.
  • Nearly,70-90% newborns infected and 20-30% carriers are the result of Vertical Transmission of Hepatitis B , in India.
  • Although the Health Ministry has approved the birth dose in 2008, its coverage remained low — 45% in 2015 and 60% in 2016 — according to a 2019 Health Ministry report.
  • Reasons for the low coverage are :
    • The fear of wastage of vaccine when a 10-dose vial is used.
    • Unawareness of health-care workers about WHO recommendation that allows Hepatitis B Open-Vial Policy which states that vaccine can be kept for a maximum duration of 28 days for use in other children if the vaccine meets certain conditions.

Hepatitis B

  • It is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause both acute and chronic disease.
  • The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids.
  • It is the primary cause of liver cancer.
  • Hepatitis B can be prevented by vaccines that are safe, available and effective.
  • Every year, World Hepatitis Day is celebrated on the 28th of July.
  • It is among the four diseases apart from HIV-AIDS, TB, Malaria for which, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially endorses disease-specific global awareness days.


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