Many women in Southeast Asia are being turned away from donor liver transplants after waiting on a waiting list for an estimated 5,000 years due to cuts in incentives for donors.
During a pandemic in 1968-1969 that wiped out around 50 percent of the world’s population of freshwater fish, more than 3 million Asians were infected with hepatitis A and B, including 200,000 women. As in today’s situation, many Asian countries traditionally provided compensation for donors and in some instances even paid them to give blood and organs.
According to a new study in Human Reproduction, which was conducted with the support of the World Health Organization, the pilot program to publicize hepatitis A and B vaccinations and to add hepatitis C cases to donor registration systems was an effective way to reduce the risk of hepatitis A and B in recipient countries, including China.
While hepatitis B deaths decreased by two-thirds over the 6-year period, hepatitis A deaths nearly doubled, indicating that women (versus men) were disproportionately affected in Southeast Asia during the pandemic.
Women in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia, for example, were 26 percent more likely to be infected with hepatitis B, and 60 percent more likely to be infected with hepatitis A. The annual number of hepatitis B births in Cambodia from 2010 to 2015 was 158 percent higher than in the previous year, and hepatitis A birth rates were 75 percent higher. In Vietnam, the annual number of hepatitis B births in 2010 was 57 percent higher than in the previous year, and in 2011 the annual hepatitis B birth rate rose by 20 percent. The annual number of hepatitis A births in 2013 was 68 percent higher than in 2010.
“Disproportionate mortality and morbidity of Asian women due to hepatitis are related to the higher incidence of hepatitis A and B in women during the pandemic, which in turn was due to the improvements in hepatitis A and B immunization,” the authors note. The authors suggest that increased hepatitis A and B vigilance by donor and recipient countries could offset increased maternal mortality resulting from the pandemic. As reported in Live Science, the World Health Organization reports that an estimated 45 million children worldwide have been infected with hepatitis B and 29 million have been orphaned by the virus, which results in missing out on vital childhood immunizations or missing out on vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that countries increase attention to hepatitis B vaccination through a “pox vaccination national immunization campaign.” This campaign should be coordinated with donor-recipient partners, WHO member states, and donor donors, as well as with relevant domestic and international NGOs.
According to data presented to the CDC, there is no evidence that hepatitis B carriers have been able to pass on the virus to newborns. The current policy in the Philippines is to vaccinate all babies against hepatitis B.
Fluoride has also been found to prevent hepatitis A and B from developing. The CDC recommends that countries include fluoride in the base of the tap water supply as a potential protective measure. Currently, Vietnam is the only country to have fluoridated its drinking water supply.
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