Hepatitis B Remains a Public Health Concern

Written by Ker Wei
Posted on August 19, 2022

Introduction to Hepatitis

Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver that can be caused by viruses (most common), heavy alcohol use, drugs, toxins, as well as certain medical conditions such as autoimmune disease. There are five types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, and E. Like many other countries in the region, viral hepatitis is an important health problem in Malaysia, with the most common hepatitis being hepatitis A, B, and C. 

Types of hepatitis

Read also: The ABCs of Hepatitis

Hepatitis B 

Amongst the other types of hepatitis, hepatitis B and C are more severe, leading to chronic diseases such as cirrhosis, a condition where the liver hardens and shrinks, and also liver cancer. 1 million of Malaysia’s population is estimated to be chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The hepatitis B or HBV endemic, however, has seen a reduction in new infections with 11.6 persons per 100, 000 populations (2021) from 12.2 persons (2015). 

Most of the cases observed were born in the pre-vaccination era (1989; before the National Immunization Programme) with the ratio of male to female at 3:1 and over 50% of them are Malay, usually with a history of intravenous drug use (injecting drugs). Major cases are also seen in the transmission from mother to fetus.

Hepatitis B, an STD?

Hepatitis B is commonly related to being sexually transmitted, as it is present in the body fluids, semen and blood that are in contact or shared during unprotected sex. Its primary route of transmission is through blood and body fluids and isn’t transmissible through other vectors. Sharing of cutleries or any form of casual contact like touching someone with Hepatitis B does not pose risk of infection.

Preventive measures- condoms
Source: Nadezhda Moryak

 If you suspect contracting Hepatitis B, go for a screening at hospitals and at central or regional laboratories. A blood test will be performed to detect and measure HBV antigens and antibodies. A positive result indicates that you are currently infected and can pass the infection to others. MyScreening provides screening packages for Hepatitis B and other STDs including HIV and syphilis. The test will be conducted on-site (at home), at your preferred place and time where urine and blood samples will be collected.

Treatment & Prevention

There is currently no treatment for Hepatitis B, only medications to suppress viral replication to prevent complications. However, following the National Immunization Programme that started in 1989, Hepatitis B vaccination was introduced to mandate every baby to take 3 doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine (within 24 hours after birth, first month, and sixth month). A study showed that the prevalence of HBV surface antigen (HBsAg) in children born after the implementation of the program is lower than those before the implementation (0.3% versus 1.7-1.8%). 

Currently, adult vaccination is only given to high risk groups, such as healthcare workers in general hospitals and clinics. However, individuals who have missed or are unable to obtain the vaccine as a child can actively decide to immunize themselves when they are adults as well. Similar to babies, 3 doses of shots will be administered at intervals of 0, 1 and 6 month. Hepatitis B is considered the top 5 vaccine-preventable diseases; therefore, getting yourself vaccinated is advisable. 

Vaccination for Hepatitis B
Source: Canva

Besides that, practicing safe sex is of utmost importance in satisfying your pleasure needs. Condoms are believed to be 99% effective in stopping transmission of hepatitis. Check out P’sang. As cool as its name sounds, P’sang has a wide collection of cooler condoms that match everyone’s preference (especially the Asian fit!). The star of the show here is not just the sleek buttercup design that’s easy to unwrap and get fitted in (the correct way), but also the rubber-free smell that most people desire. Do check Malaysia’s very own home-grown brand, P’sang.

P'sang buttercup condoms
Source: P’sang

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2. Anon. 2022. You could have hepatitis and not know it: Malaysians share their story. Retrieved on 10th August 2022 from https://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/health/2022/08/03/many-people-may-be-unknowingly-infected-with-hepatitis.

3.Buddy, T. 2022. Is Hepatitis a Sexually Transmitted Disease? Very Well Health. Retrieved on 10th August 2022 from https://www.verywellhealth.com/is-hepatitis-a-sexually-transmitted-disease-63213#.

4.CDC. Hepatitis B Questions and Answers for the Public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Retrieved on 10th August 2022 from https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/bfaq.htm#bFAQa01.

5.MIMS. Vaccine, Hepatitis B. MIMS. Retrieved on 10th August 2022 from https://www.mims.com/malaysia/drug/info/vaccine,%20hepatitis%20b?mtype=generic.

6.National Strategic Plan for Hepatitis B and C 2019-2030. Ministry of Health, Malaysia.

7.Raihan, Ruksana. “Hepatitis in Malaysia: Past, Present, and Future.” Euroasian journal of hepato-gastroenterology vol. 6,1 (2016): 52-55. doi:10.5005/jp-journals-10018-1167.

8.Rajamoorthy, Yogambigai et al. “Willingness to pay for hepatitis B vaccination in Selangor, Malaysia: A cross-sectional household survey.” PloS one vol. 14,4 e0215125. 9 Apr. 2019, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215125.

9.Vijayan, Sheela. 2022. Hepatitis in Malaysia: then and now. Retrieved on 10th Agusut 2022 from https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/leisure/health/2022/07/28/hepatitis-in-malaysia-then-and-now/.

10.Wang, XiNa. Freepik. https://www.freepik.com/vectors/health”>Health vector created by WangXiNa – www.freepik.com.

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