November 20, 2013

By: Jet Villa, InterAksyon.com
November 20, 2013 3:44 PM

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A file photo of a comic strip from the Hepatology Society of the Philippines.

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

Almost ten percent of the Philippine population are infected with hepatitis, forcing experts to say that the situation is a "silent epidemic."

Close to nine million Filipinos are suffering from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C, the Hepatology Society of the Philippines (HSP) said on Wednesday, adding that most of those infected are "oblivious" of their illness.

Some 7.3 million are chronically infected with Hepatitis B, a "rate [that] is extremely high, more than double the eight percent average prevalence of Hepatitis B infection in the Western Pacific region," HSP President Dr. Diana Payawal said.

Meanwhile, around 2.3 percent or one million Filipinos may be infected with Hepatitis C virus, she added.

"In the Philippines, Viral Hepatitis B and VIral C infection is an urgent major public health problem yet has drawn little concern from the government," she lamented, adding that the diseases' conditions are largely asymptomatic in nature.

To combat viral hepatitis, the HSP has launched the National Viral Hepatitis Task Force (NVHTF).

Payawal said that both Hepatitis B and C are "strongly associated with later development of liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma" or liver cancer.

"Globally, 30 percent of cirrhosis cases can be attributed to Hepatitis B infection and 27 percent can be attributed to Hepatitis C infection. The attributable proportions are likely to be higher in the Philippines," she pointed.

Liver cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer worldwide.

"But in the Philippines, Department of Health (DOH) and Philippine Cancer Society statistics show that liver cancer is the 3rd leading sites for both sexes," she said.

Liver is the 2nd cancer site among Filipino males and 7th among females, with incidence increases at age 40.

"Liver cancer is one of the deadliest of all cancers," Payawal said.

The task force came up with strategic plan that will serve as a "road map" for viral hepatitis prevention and control.

The road map adopts the framework of the World Health Organizaton Global Hepatitis Programme that uses four "axes"' to address viral hepatitis.

These are:

* raising awareness, promoting partnership, mobilizing resources

* evidence-based policy and data for action

* prevention of transmission

* screening, care, and treatment

The HSP's partners in introducung NVHTF include Department of Health, World Health Organization (WHO), Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, Philippine College of Physicians, Philippine Health Insurance Corp., Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, Yellow Warriors Society of the Philippines and Department of Labor and Employment.

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