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Plan Issued to Contain Hepatitis B
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China's Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued a plan to ensure that newborns and other vulnerable groups stay away from hepatitis B in the next five years.

According to the 2006-2010 national hepatitis B prevention and control plan, the positive rate of all Chinese will be reduced to less than 7 percent and that of children under five years old one percent by 2010.

Vaccinating children is highlighted by the plan as a major strategy to fight hepatitis B. It is expected that the vaccination rate of newborns will reach beyond 90 percent by 2010. About 95 percent of children born after 2002 who have not been injected will be immunized.

China has not officially released statistics on the numbers of hepatitis B patients and virus carriers, but according to estimates by experts cited by the MOH, there are 20 million chronic hepatitis B patients.

Liu Shijin, member of the China Association of Integrative Medicine, reckoned that China has 130 million hepatitis B virus carriers, meaning one out of ten people is infected.

The plan promises to set up sound systems to monitor hepatitis B prevalence, the vaccination rate of newborns and infections in high-risk groups.

It also requires all medical institutions to eliminate spread of the virus by blood transmission, which together with sexual intercourse and mother-to-child transmission are the three major channels to diffuse the virus.

In January alone, 493 people died of 27 infectious diseases in the mainland, with tuberculosis, rabies and hepatitis B as the top killers.

Despite the optimistic tone of the new plan, the MOH admitted that China's hepatitis B prevention and control efforts "fall far short" of increasing public health demands.

It blamed local governments for failing to pay due attention and give sufficient funding to the work, fake medical advertisements for misguiding patients and irregular medical treatment practices.

(Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2006)

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