Free hepatitis type B and C carrier tests will be included in routine health checks for people over 40 with effect from Aug. 1, the Department of Health said yesterday.
The decision, announced yesterday on World Hepatitis Day, is aimed at detecting hepatitis in the adult population and preventing liver scarring and liver cancer as a result of chronic hepatitis.
Last year, liver cancer was the No. 1 cause of death among men and the No. 2 cause of death among women in Taiwan. Of the 7,759 people who died in Taiwan from liver cancer last year, 70 percent were hepatitis B carriers, while 20 percent were type C carriers, statistics showed.
Photo: Yang Ching-ching, Taipei Times
Carriers of the virus are at higher risk of developing chronic hepatitis and liver cancer, the department said, advising that healthy carriers be tested every six months.
Chronic hepatitis, known as the “silent disease,” has few or no symptoms, said Chen Ding-shinn (陳定信), chair of the Coalition to Eradicate Viral Hepatitis in Asia Pacific.
Chen said more than 50 percent of chronic liver patients in the Asia-Pacific region have not been tested and nearly 40 percent do not have access to free or subsidized medical treatment.
There are about 2 billion people worldwide infected with hepatitis B, according to WHO estimates. About 350 million live with chronic infection and up to 600,000 people die each year of acute or chronic hepatitis B, data from the WHO showed.
According to the non-governmental World Hepatitis Alliance, one in every 12 adults worldwide has hepatitis B, which is 50 to 100 times more infectious than HIV.
Hepatitis B is a viral disease transmitted through contact with body fluids and it is transmissible from mother to baby at birth.
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