China has started a two-year educational program aimed at preventing the spread of Hepatitis B from mother to child in four counties of west China's Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
"The program is the first to be carried out in China's rural areas for women of childbearing age," said the program organizer on Saturday who added that in China Hepatitis B is often transmitted from mother to child.
Many people are Hepatitis B carriers but do not suffer any symptoms of the disease. This makes it difficult to stop its spread, especially when expectant mothers are unaware of their own condition or how the disease is transmitted.
The US$200,000 program, funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, is organized by the Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control. It aims to teach nearly 340,000 women of childbearing age and nearly 600 grassroots doctors in pilot counties how to prevent Hepatitis B.
The fund will cover the cost of free educational pamphlets, renting venues for lectures and providing medical equipment for Hepatitis B prevention.
The women will learn that they should be tested for Hepatitis B before they are married or become pregnant, that their new-born babies should be vaccinated and mothers who are carriers should not breast-feed their babies.
A survey by the organizer in Zhenyuan and Wushan counties in Gansu Province shows that only 25.01 percent of childbearing-age women surveyed know how Hepatitis B is contracted and only 10.71 percent of doctors surveyed know how to block the transmission from mother to infant.
Hepatitis, as well as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and snail fever, is the most serious infectious diseases in China.
Currently, China has about 120 million Hepatitis B carriers and more than 20 million chronic Hepatitis patients who spend more than 100 billion yuan (US$12.5 billion) per year treating the illness.
Medical research shows that most Hepatitis B carriers in China were infected with the virus when they were babies, 30 to 40 percent of whom were born with the disease. More than 90 percent of infant infections can be blocked by timely inoculation.
(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2006)