VIETNAM : HÀ NỘI — A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Health shows that more than three million Vietnamese people are infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV).
According to the survey, 40 per cent of the infected people may die due to HCV-related complications, including liver cancer.
The ministry said the number of deaths caused by Hepatitis B and C was the same as the number of people dying from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in Việt Nam.
The prevalence of HCV in HCM City is alarmingly high, accounting for 3.2-4.2 per cent. The incidence of cirrhosis in the city is 3.3 per cent and liver cancer is up to 4 per cent. The HCV infection rate is as high as 96 per cent among drug addicts.
Hepatitis C is like a “silent killer” because it has no obvious symptoms but can be extremely dangerous and, in some cases, life threatening, according to the Vietnam Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (VLBA).
HCV can be transmitted by blood, tooth extraction and unprotected sex, and the number of infected people in the country is increasing. In the early stages of the disease, most hepatitis C patients have no symptoms and it does not affect the patient’s health, so most people do not realise when they are infected, according to health experts.
A representative from VLBA said a patient’s health can be severely affected when HCV transitions to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Patients at this stage have anorexia, indigestion, swelling in legs, muscle aches, cramps, numbness, itching, dizziness, fatigue and trembling hands. In addition to this, severe complications such as gastrointestinal bleeding, fluid retention in the abdomen and drowsiness can occur,” the doctor said, giving hope that the potential to eliminate HCV exists with appropriate disease awareness, screening, treatment and healthcare infrastructure.
HCV continues to be one of the most prevalent blood-borne infections in the world, affecting more than 185 million people globally. HCV-related complications cause up to 500,000 deaths every year, with countries in East Asia recording some of the highest HCV infection levels worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.
In future, US-based Gilead Sciences biopharmaceutical company plans to expand an initiative to reduce morbidity and mortality of HCV in Southeast Asia, including Việt Nam.
The Gilead’s Access initiative has achieved remarkable results in Arkhangai Province of Mongolia since 2016 by providing screening for nearly 17,600 people. Among the 1,774 people who tested positive for HCV, 1,748 have received treatment to date and 99.7 per cent of the infected population has fully recovered. In addition to this, 36 cases of early-stage liver cancer were identified during the screening process