How many Filipino children really have Hepatitis B?
This the Department of Health (DOH) aims to find out as it conducts the National Hepatitis B Sero-prevalence Survey, with support from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, in 25 provinces of the country that started this month.
“We want to be more effective in preventing hepatitis B, and this survey will yield very important information on how DOH can improve its health services,” Secretary of Health Francisco T. Duque III said.
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 National Hepatitis B Sero-prevalence 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.
Around 3,000 children, aged five to six years old, will be tested for hepatitis B in the survey. DOH partnered with the Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation, Inc., in deploying survey teams to 25 provinces.
Aside from assessing the progress towards hepatitis B control in the country, the survey will also help document the immunization program’s progress by measuring vaccination coverage among children. The survey will also provide baseline information as the country aims for the global goal of 0.1% hepatitis B prevalence among children by 2030.
The entire process will take around 30 minutes and the parent or caregiver will be present during the entire process.
“We appeal to parents or caregivers to allow their child, if he/she is selected, to be tested. Our survey teams have been trained to observe confidentiality in obtaining information,” Secretary Duque emphasized.
Hepatitis B can be transmitted from mother-to-child through direct contact or after birth and through exposure to infected blood and other bodily fluids.
Vaccination remains the most important preventive measure against hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccination has been part of the routine childhood immunization program since 1992. Republic Act No. 10152 or the “Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011,” further highlighted the importance of the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine, given within 24 hours of birth to prevent mother-to-child transmission of infection. Three more doses of the vaccine are then given during infancy (4-8 weeks, 10-16 weeks, and before the child reaches one year of age) for additional protection.
“The concerted efforts of the community, along with its local government leaders, will ensure the successful conduct of the survey,” concluded the health chief.