The hepatitis B virus is one of those dangerous viruses that can cause chronic disease; this one attacks the liver, and after many years can cause liver failure (cirrhosis), liver cancer and death. Unfortunately, in China this disease is extremely common, with an estimated 10% of Chinese infected for life. In China, most people get infected from their mothers at childbirth from blood-blood mixing. Many people also got infected from reused needles in clinics, especially in rural areas, in the 80’s and 90’s.
The problem in China is not just low use of the hepatitis B vaccine but also a huge social stigma, comparable to HIV. Most companies and schools illegally test people for hepatitis B and will not hire or enroll them if positive.
As is the case with many things in China, enforcement of current laws would help end this stigma. Fortunately, the government has just announced new laws to officially make it illegal to bar employment or enrollment of hepatitis B carriers. The New York Times reviews this in the article linked below.
The internet in China has helped push this issue, and “In the Hepatitis B Camp” [www.hbvhbv.com] is a popular website for hepatitis B carriers in China. Its online forum has over 300,000 members.
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