The Hong Kong government has rolled out a host of measures worth more than HK$70 million (US$9 million) a year under an inaugural blueprint for combating viral hepatitis with the goal of rendering the city free of the chronic disease and stamping out all mother-to-child transmissions.
The measures include subsidised antiviral treatment for hepatitis C patients and infected pregnant women, checks on the efficacy of vaccines given to newborns of such mothers, enhanced training for medical staff and more specialised nursing clinics, according to Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee.
“This action plan is really the first blueprint formulated to cope with viral hepatitis and it shows the importance attached by the government to the work of prevention, as well as the control of hepatitis,” Chan said in announcing the “Hong Kong Viral Hepatitis Action Plan 2020-2024”.
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The government will work towards the goals set out by the World Health Organization to eliminate the disease as a major public health threat by 2030, with the rate of diagnosis and treatment coverage to reach 90 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively. The plan also aims by that time to reduce the incidence of the disease by 90 per cent and deaths by 65 per cent.
Hong Kong has about 540,000 cases of chronic hepatitis B and 22,000 cases of type C. There are also more than 1,500 deaths from liver cancer every year, the third leading type of cancer deaths in the city, which are mostly associated with those two virus types.
Sufferers of hepatitis B can be treated with antivirals to inhibit the growth of the virus, but they cannot be completely cured and require lifelong treatment. Hepatitis C patients can be cured with a type of easily tolerated antivirals known as DAA.
Under the measures targeting hepatitis B, the Hospital Authority has allocated about HK$5 million to allow 800 pregnant women with a high viral load to receive antivirals every year. Currently, all infants receive hepatitis B vaccinations and the programme will also monitor their response to the injections.
The authority will increase its budget for DAA treatments for about 1,700 hepatitis C patients every year by HK$70 million for a total of roughly HK$120 million.
Apart from the two nurse clinics already in place this year for hepatitis patients, another eight nurse clinics will be introduced later this year.
This article Hong Kong rolls out its first scheme dedicated to eliminating viral hepatitis first appeared on South China Morning Post