WHO presses for action on hepatitis in Vietnam

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Around eight million people in Vietnam, or one of every 12, have hepatitis B or C, according to a WHO report released on Saturday.

The report said liver cancer remains the second most prevalent killer among Vietnamese men. Hepatitis B or C has led to 57 percent of liver fibroid cases and 78 percent of liver cancer cases in Vietnam.

The WHO warned about the heavy burden of hepatitis in Vietnam, which suffers from a weak public understanding of the condition and how to control it.

Fabio Mesquita, a senior HIV consultant for WHO Vietnam, said the country should give priority to establishing national policies in diagnosing and treating chronic hepatitis B and C in order to prevent fatal developments, including liver fibroid and cancer.

Drug addicts who use syringes have the highest infection rate of hepatitis C, an astonishing 98.5 percent, the report found. Hepatitis B and C are transmitted through blood and unprotected sex.

WHO researchers also remarked on the poor application of hepatitis B vaccines for newborns in Vietnam. The report said that only 55 percent of babies were vaccinated within the first day of life in 2011. That rate was more than 60 percent in 2005, then reduced to 25 percent in 2008, 40 percent in 2009, and lower in 2010.

The vaccination program began ten years ago.

The WHO is still drafting instructions for the detection and treatment of chronic hepatitis B and C in an effort to provide cheaper and more accessible treatment in all countries.

More than 500 million people are infected with hepatitis worldwide and the disease kills more than one million people every year, according to the WHO.

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