Millennium Post

Bhutan reeling under Hepatitis B threat

Rising cases of Hepatitis B infection in Bhutan has become a major health concern.

Last year alone, 744 Hepatitis B cases were reported, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, a doctor at the National Referral Hospital here, said. The higher rate of detection was due to the increasing number of testing centres. But Bhutan also has Hepatitis A and C, The Bhutanese daily quoted Wangchuk as saying.

Hepatitis B infection could lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer. The virus is spread through blood transfusion, unsafe sex or sharing of needles contaminated by the virus.

Tucked in the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is bordered to the west, south and east by India and in the north by China.

There is currently no government awareness campaign, but patients are provided free medical treatment, the health ministry’s chief programme officer Tandin said last week. There is, however, less emphasis on testing Hepatitis C, which is more serious. About 95 per cent of patients lead a normal life with treatment but the virus remains in the body.

Bhutan, with a population of just over 650,000, launched Hepatitis B vaccine in 1997 after high prevalence of the disease came to light.


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