By Leilani Junio
MANILA --- To find out the prevalence rate of hepatitis B among Filipino children, the Department of Health (DOH), together with the World Health Organization (WHO), US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has started this month the National Hepatitis B sero-prevalence Survey in 25 provinces in the country.
Around 3,000 children aged five to six years old will be tested for hepatitis B under the survey.
Dr. Maria Wilda Silva, DOH national immunization program manager, said the survey is vital in getting a baseline study on the prevalent rate of hepatitis B in the country that will help in the formulation of programs and strategies for its control and prevention.
Silva said survey teams will go to randomly-selected households, and request for parent’s consent to participate in the activity. A small amount of blood will be drawn and tested for hepatitis B from the eligible child.
She said the test will take only about 30 minutes with the parent or guardian present during the entire process.
“We are doing this because at present, the DOH has no existing provision of medication for those with hepatitis B patients,” Silva said.
The medication for the management and control of hepatitis B infection among patients are actually costly and require longer period.
At present, the only help that DOH can provide among those with hepatitis B is counseling and free confirmatory test in some hospitals.
Based on the WHO estimates in 2016, around 8.5 million Filipinos are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus. However, the number of children affected by hepatitis B, an infectious liver disease, is unknown. Hepatitis B infection can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and premature death.
The infection can be transferred through sexual intercourse; mother to child; blood transfusion; and infected body fluid transmission through open wound.
As a prevention, the DOH is also providing free vaccination through the health centers.
Its most recent intervention is providing the vaccine for newborns within 24 hours after birth in the hospital.
“Hopefully with this sero-prevalence survey, we can be able to provide the necessary intervention in the control and prevention. We hope that the parents will grant their cooperation on the conduct of this survey,” she said.
The survey started last June 4 and is expected to be finished by the middle of July.