Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver that is passed through blood, sexual contact or from mother-to-child during pregnancy. The cause of the disease is unknown, but hepatitis B affects about 350 million people in the world. It is dubbed as a “silent epidemic” because many people may be carriers, but remain unaware that they have the disease. Particularly, hepatitis B is prevalent in China, where there has been an extensive focus to curb the spread. To better understand this, here are five facts about hepatitis B in China.
5 Facts about Hepatitis B in China:
- There are approximately 80 million cases of hepatitis B in China. Further, one in every three people infected around the world is located in China. These numbers are largely due to the nature of the disease spreading from mother-to-child in the womb. A study conducted by Peking University in China found that around 30-50 percent of new hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmissions are through pregnancy.
- The “floating population” has been found to spread hepatitis B in China through sexual contact and blood. This population consists of people who frequently move between rural and urban parts of the country for family and work. Hepatitis B in China is found in rural populations 2.57 percent more than urban populations.
- The Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control has developed the ‘Shield Project’ to immunize pregnant women with HBV. Though it does not cure the women, the vaccine succeeds in preventing almost 100 percent of the babies from being born with hepatitis B in China. Additionally, the Shield Project uses a mobile app to spread information to expecting families about HBV and the treatments available. The project has been implemented in 124 hospitals as of February 2019.
- For existing and chronic hepatitis B in China, the ‘Chinese 2010 chronic hepatitis B guidelines’ help physicians to develop treatment techniques to help those suffering. As it affects liver functioning, hospitals must keep the symptoms under control to avoid organ failure. Doctors use different antiviral medications and other methods of treatment because of the current knowledge provided in the guidelines.
- Unfortunately, due to the economic burden of treatment and the stigmatized culture around hepatitis B in China, many people do not seek out help. A study conducted in Shandong, China, found that patients with illnesses related to hepatitis B had to pay around 40 percent of their income for treatment. There has also been widespread misinformation about the disease and how it is spread. People discriminate against those infected with hepatitis B in China because they are afraid of contagion. Alternatively, communities see the disease as something that can only be sexually transmitted. Doctors can prevent and treat hepatitis B in China if the person is willing to seek treatment. However, some people do not want to face families and communities after diagnoses.
There is a constant struggle in the medical community regarding the availability of resources to curb an outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for hospitals and organizations to provide more information about possible treatments to those that lack education on the topic. WHO also urges hospitals to sign up for projects providing immunizations to newborns and pregnant women with hepatitis B in China. With these efforts, WHO maintains the goal of eliminating hepatitis B in China by 2030. As the epidemic continues, China has made innovative strides to combat the spread.
– Ashleigh Litcofsky