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PH among countries with high cases of viral hepatitis

MANILA, April 13 ------ The World Health Organization (WHO) is alarmed over the number of lives lost due to viral hepatitis infections which, in 2022 averaged around 3,500 deaths per day, according to the 2024 Global Hepatitis Report.  


Hepatitis, according to the world body, is the second leading infectious cause of death globally alongside tuberculosis. The Philippines is found to be among countries that represent two thirds of the global disease burden of both Hepatitis B and C. In 2022, the country logged 400,000 Hepatitis C infections, a disease which so far remains to be without a vaccine. But what is even more worrying is the number of Hepatitis B infections which reached 5.7 million across all ages. 


Hepatitis B affects the liver and spreads through the exchange of bodily fluids either by sexual intercourse, sharing of needles and syringes, or during pregnancy or delivery. Among the symptoms of a Hepatitis B infection are fatigue, poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, and jaundice. “Mag-i-inflame ang liver mo, maninilaw ka tapos magkaka-liver cirrhosis ka. Puwede kang magkaroon ng chronic Hepatitis B. Tapos yung Hep[atitis] B, ‘pag nagkaroon ka noon, puwede ka magkaroon ng liver cancer. Precursor siya ng liver cancer,” Health Secretary Ted Herbosa said. 


Unlike Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease. In fact, it is among the vaccines first introduced to a child through the pentavalent vaccine, which also provides protection against influenza, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis. Herbosa admits immunization rates continue to be low. A UNICEF report identifies the Philippines belonging to list of 20 countries with the largest numbers of zero-dose children. “We’re Number 4 in the world for zero-dose children. Can you imagine – Susmaryosep! Number 4 in the world? Maraming vaccine hesitant. (My god, number four in the world. A lot are still vaccine hesitant.)” 


Aside from hesitancy, among the hurdles in achieving high vaccination rates is the depleting stock of pentavalent vaccines. The DOH says supply will be distributed among areas which are seeing outbreaks and high numbers of the whooping cough. To augment vaccine supply, the DOH has ordered DTP vaccines as it awaits the three million pentavalent vaccines which are expected to arrive by mid-year. 



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