CHINA> National
Hepatitis B rate above 9% among college students
Updated: 2009-05-10 21:31

YANGZHOU, Jiangsu -- Only 30 percent of China's college students have been inoculated against hepatitis B, leading to a higher-than-average infection rate, a health expert said Sunday.

Yang Xizhong, secretary general of the Chinese Foundation for hepatitis Prevention and Control, said at a workshop on hepatitis prevention that more than 9 percent of Chinese college students were infected with the disease, according to a six-month nationwide survey on 729,000 students from 59 colleges.

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The infection rate topped 10 percent in some provinces such as Jiangxi, Guangdong, Hubei and Fujian, while the average hepatitis B infection rate among those aged 15 to 59 in China was about 8.57 percent, Yang said.

Yang attributed the slightly higher-than-average infection rate among college students mainly to lack of disease prevention awareness.

"Although inoculation is the most effective way to ward off hepatitis B infection, only 30 percent of the students were inoculated," Yang said.

He said college students were "a high-risk population for hepatitis B due to their sexual activeness."

"They should the focus of the hepatitis B prevention work," he said.

Yang urged authorities to strengthen education of hepatitis B prevention among college students, and to give more support to inoculation against the disease from the central government.

By April 2008, China reported about 93 million people carrying hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), the earliest indicator of acute hepatitis B, which frequently identifies infected people before symptoms appear.

Hepatitis B can cause liver inflammation, vomiting, and jaundice. Chronic hepatitis B may eventually cause liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.

The disease can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth or between people by contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.

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.