YANG BERHORMAT DATO SERI SETIA DR HAJI ZULKARNAIN
BIN HAJI HANAFI
MINISTER OF HEALTH
ON THE OCCASION OF WORLD HEPATITIS DAY
28 JULY 2017
THEME: "ELIMINATE HEPATITIS"
1. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. The most common cause of hepatitis in the world is caused by viruses. There are different types of hepatitis viruses, however hepatitis B and C are of the greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, hepatitis B and C lead to chronic disease and are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer worldwide. As such, awareness, prevention and appropriate treatment of these conditions are critical.
2. Hepatitis B and C are commonly spread from exposure to infected blood and other bodily fluid. This can occur from mother-to-child at birth, through sexual transmission, or through intravenous drug use. In a typical case of viral hepatitis infection, it usually takes years before any sign of liver damage appears. The disease is not curable but treatment can turn an aggressive infection into a milder condition through controlling the virus in the body and preventing the development of complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancers.
3. At the end of 2015, there were approximately 325 million people living with chronic hepatitis globally. An estimated 257 million people living with hepatitis B infection, and 71 million people living with hepatitis C infection. This is why this year's theme urges everyone to be involved to "Eliminate Hepatitis". At the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, 194 governments including Brunei Darussalam adopted the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis. This strategy includes a goal to eliminate hepatitis B and C by 2030.
4. Alhamdullilah, the number of new cases in Brunei Darussalam have declined significantly. According to studies done locally, the incidence of hepatitis B infection among our blood donors have dropped from 4-6% in the late 1980s to approximately 0.9% in the mid-2000s. This decline has been made possible through the Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) available since 1984 where immunization coverage for hepatitis B is mandatory to all newborn. Screening through medical fitness, antenatal testing as well as blood donor screening also provides further control to the incidence of hepatitis B. Similarly, the number of people in Brunei Darussalam affected with Hepatitis C infection also continues to decline.
5. While these improvements are welcome, we need to ensure that this is sustained. Hepatitis B and C are highly contagious diseases. Every individual needs to play their part to protect themselves and reduce their risk of contracting the disease by following these simple steps:
- Avoid multiple sexual partners.
- Avoid unprotected sexual intercourse. Do not engage in unprotected sex unless you're absolutely certain your partner isn't infected with Hepatitis B or any other sexually transmitted infection.
- Stop using illicit drugs. If you use illicit drugs, get help to stop.
- Be cautious about acupuncture, cupping, body piercing and tattooing. If you are planning to get an acupuncture, cupping, piercing or tattoo, look for a reputable facility. Make sure they are using sterilised equipment.
- Get hepatitis B vaccination. If you're traveling to a region where hepatitis B is common, ask your doctor for hepatitis B vaccine in advance. It's usually given in a series of three injections over a six-month period.
6. The Ministry of Health's activities to eliminate hepatitis is aligned to its strategic priorities which are to drive the "Health is everyone's business" agenda, enhance the quality of service delivery and prevent & control non-communicable diseases. On this World Hepatitis Day, let us all play our part to Eliminate Hepatitis and strive for a hepatitis-free Brunei.