The Department of Health aims to find out how many Filipino children really have Hepatitis B as it conducted the National Hepatitis B Sero-Prevalence Survey in 25 provinces across the country.
Based on the World Health Organization’s 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. The infection can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and premature death.
Around 3,000 children, aged five to six years old, will be tested for Hepatitis B in the survey.
The DoH partnered with the Field Epidemiology Training Program Alumni Foundation Inc., in deploying survey teams to 25 provinces.
The 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.
The entire process will take around 30 minutes with the parent or caregiver will be present for the duration, Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III said.
“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,” Duque emphasized.
The survey drew support from the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the WHO.
“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,” Duque said.
He noted that the concerted efforts of the community, along with its local government leaders, will ensure the successful conduct of the survey.
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 percent Hepatitis B prevalence among children by 2030.
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 DoH’s routine childhood immunization program since 1992. Republic Act No. 10152 or the “Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act of 2011,” 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–at 4-8 weeks, 10-16 weeks, and before the child reaches one year of age--for additional protection.