There is still very little awareness of the high risk of death from hepatitis B and C in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur Hospital director Datuk Dr Zaininah Mohd Zain said recently.
“Most people are afraid of AIDS, but hepatitis B and C are more contagious than the virus that causes AIDS,” she said, when launching a programme to mark World Hepatitis Day 2011 at the hospital here.
Hepatitis B & C can cause liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.
Zaininah said that about 5% of the population or 1.4 million people in Malaysia are infected with hepatitis B, and 2% with the hepatitis C viruses respectively,
Worldwide, more than 500 million people were estimated to be infected with the viruses, she said.
She said the viruses were spread through the sharing of needles, sex with an infected partner, and from infected mother to baby, among other ways.
Zaininah urged people with a risk of being infected to undergo free blood screening for hepatitis B and C at government hospitals.
As of now, there is vaccine only for hepatitis B, and babies have been immunized with it since 1989, she said.