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Infection rate lowers for hepatitis B
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The carrying rate of the hepatitis B virus surface antigen, a protein antigen produced by hepatitis virus, has lowered to 7.18 percent in China, a senior official of the Ministry of Health told a news conference today.

The rate, which was conducted in a 2006 survey among Chinese between the age of one and 59, declined from 9.75 percent in 1992, Hao Yang, deputy director of the Disease Control and Prevention Bureau under the ministry, said in Beijing this morning.

The antigen is the earliest indicator of acute hepatitis B and frequently identifies infected people before symptoms appear. HBsAg disappears from the blood during the recovery period. In some people, particularly those infected as children or those with a weak immune system, such as those with AIDS, chronic infection with HBV may occur and HBsAg remains positive.

The rate indicated that about 93 million people in China carried the hepatitis B virus surface antigen, Hao said.

China pledged in an anti-hepatitis plan in 2006 that it will control the rate within 7 percent by 2010.

Hao added that 8.57 percent of people between the ages of 15 and 59 have the antigen, making it the biggest group among all age groups in the survey.

Kids between one and four had the lowest rate at 0.96 percent, followed by 2.42 percent between the ages of five and 14, Hao said.

The number of children infected with hepatitis B virus has been cut by nearly 80 million since 1992, Hao said.

Hepatitis B is one of the top-five killers in China along with rabies, tuberculosis, AIDS and neonatal tetanus, according to the ministry.

About 120 million Chinese were hepatitis B carriers as of April 2007, including 30 million patients. Some 300,000 people die of hepatitis B-related diseases in the nation every year.

Discriminations against the disease carriers are also commonplaces in China.

Ninety-six percent of 115 surveyed branches of 98 foreign companies in China discriminate against hepatitis B carriers, and only four ventures offer an equal chance to such carriers when recruiting, according to a survey conducted by the China Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control in June last year.

The survey also found 77 percent, or 89 branches, explicitly said they will refuse to hire hepatitis B carriers. They include companies such as Motorola, Siemens, Philips and Sony.

In another survey by the China University of Political Science and Law in June last year, 56 percent of 3,454 respondents in 10 cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Nanjing, Xi'an, Zhengzhou and Qingdao said they would not recruit hepatitis B carriers.

(Shanghai Daily April 21, 2008)

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