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Mother-to-child hepatitis B transmission eliminated in England

Mother-to-child hepatitis B transmission eliminated in England

Mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B has been eliminated in England, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has announced.

The country is now on track to eliminate both hepatitis B and C by a global target date of 2030, public health officials believe.

Measures to test all pregnant women for hepatitis B were introduced in the 1990s with a targeted vaccination programme for newborn babies of those who tested positive.

In 2017, hepatitis B immunisation was added to the routine infant vaccination programme with the introduction of the six-in-one jab with uptake now at more than 90%.

The World Heatlh Organisation (WHO) has set a target of overall elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.

There are an estimated 206,000 people are living with chronic hepatitis B infection in England, UKHSA said.

The majority of cases are in migrants who have acquired infection overseas in endemic countries prior before coming to the UK.

Globally, mother-to-child transmission is one of the most common routes for hepatitis B infection.

Although the risk of hepatitis B in the UK is low, all those eligible to take up vaccination should continue to be encouraged to do so, UKHSA said.

This includes people who have ever injected drugs, gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who have moved to the UK from countries where hepatitis is common and pregnant women.

The number of people living with hepatitis C has also declined with figures now thought to stand at 92,900 people at the end of 2021, a drop of 47% since 2015.

A three-month pilot scheme last year was set up to search GP records in the hope of finding 50,000 patients with hepatitis C who are not receiving treatment.

Dr Sema Mandal, deputy director for blood borne viruses at UKHSA, said: ‘With the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B, very low hepatitis related death rates and continued reduction of chronic hepatitis C levels, we are on our way to our goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C in England by 2030.

‘Testing, vaccination for hepatitis B and curative treatments for hepatitis C have all played a significant role in driving down these infections.’

Health minister, Steve Barclay said: ‘We are paving the way for the elimination of hepatitis B and C, with England set to be one of the first countries in the world to wipe out these viruses.

‘Deaths and prevalence of hepatitis C have fallen consistently thanks to improvements in diagnosis and access to highly effective treatments that are available on the NHS.’


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