Tue, Jan 05, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Hepatitis C risk in remote areas high

BAD PRACTICE:High prevalence rates are said to have been caused by people consulting unlicensed medical practitioners who did not thoroughly disinfect needles

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

A medical team from Kaohsiung has said that people in the nation’s southwestern areas, remote districts and outlying islands are at the most risk of contracting hepatitis C.

The group of physicians from Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Kaohsiung Medical University last week released a map, titled the “Taiwan hepatitis C risk map,” that showed districts in the nation’s southwest in places such as Yunlin, Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung, and remote districts of eastern Taiwan and outlying islands as being at high risk.

Lu Sheng-nan (盧勝男), a physician at Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital’s Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, said that the prevalence rate of hepatitis C in Kaohsiung’s Zihguan District (梓官), for example, is higher than 15 percent, compared with the national average prevalence rate of between 3 percent and 5 percent.

Lu said that a higher prevalence rate in southwestern areas is mainly caused by the practice of seeking medical treatment from unlicensed medical practitioners in the past, associated with not disinfecting needles thoroughly and abusive use of drugs.

As for the about 10 percent prevalence rate in remote areas, Lu said it might be caused by inconvenient traffic and insufficient medical resources, adding that people in such areas might be unwilling to lose a day’s income by traveling to metropolitan areas for medical treatment, or might not even know they are hepatitis C carriers.

Dai Chia-yen (戴嘉言), a physician at Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-ho Memorial Hospital’s Department of Hepatobiliary Medicine, said that in order to improve the accessibility of medical services in such areas, the hospitals have formed a medical team to provide examinations for screening liver diseases and related treatment in the areas.

Bringing more medical services to such areas has proved to be more effective than waiting for residents to visit hospitals for treatment after receiving health examinations reports, Dai said.

He said a team from Kaohsiung Medical University Chung-ho Memorial Hospital, who established a special outpatient service session at Zihguan District’s local health bureau in 2014 and provided services every two weeks, has discovered more than 2,000 hepatitis C carriers from 15,000 people screened.

Lu said hepatitis C can be cured, but it is important to discover the infection and get treatment as early as possible, and that chronicle hepatitis C carriers must get follow-up liver examinations regularly to avoid the disease progressing to liver cancer.

Lu said that to prevent damage to the liver, people should live a healthy lifestyle, including getting enough sleep, sleeping early and avoiding smoking, drinking liquor or consuming unknown drugs.

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