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Ministry: China has 93 mln HBsAg carriers
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About 93 million Chinese, or 7.18 percent of the total population are hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) carriers, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday.

The country sees a disproportionate ratio of carriers as an MOH survey shows that people in western and interior provinces are more likely to carry the virus than people in eastern and coastal provinces, said Hao Yang, deputy director of the Ministry's disease prevention and control bureau, at a press conference.

Age is another factor, as the rate for children aged from one to four carrying HBsAg is 0.96 percent, much lower than the 8.57 percent of those from 15 to 59, according to the survey, which was based on the research and study of the Ministry since 2006.

The survey also reveals that the three-shot inoculation rate of Hepatitis B vaccine among newborns has soared from 30 percent in 1992, when hepatitis B virus (HBV) was first brought into a national immunization plan, to 93 percent in 2005.

The rate for newborns to receive the first shot, or prompt shot also increased from 22 percent in 1992 to 82 percent in 2005.

Three shots are usually necessary for children to build their immune system against HBV. The first shot for newborns is usually injected on the first day after their birth, which is critical for them to cut maternal HBV transmission.

HBsAg is a protein antigen produced by HBV. This antigen is the earliest indicator of acute hepatitis B and frequently identifies infected people before symptoms appear.

Chinese job hunters, including those seeking government posts, have long complained of discrimination on the grounds of Hepatitis B.

In 2005, the government issued a health standard that included Hepatitis B carriers among eligible candidates for the civil service.

The standard said Hepatitis B carriers were eligible to work for the government so long as the infection did not progress to the disease stage.

(Xinhua News Agency April 22, 2008)

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