Hepatitis campaign launched in Belgium
12 May 2005
BRUSSELS – More than 90 percent of Belgians are aware of the health risks posed by hepatitis, but only 15 percent are vaccinated against the disease, a new survey has revealed.
Conducted by the IPSOS institute and based on data gathered in March 2005, the survey has spawned a new nationwide public awareness campaign called ‘Vaccination against hepatitis A and B: I’m signing a contract for life’, the RTL newssite reported on Thursday.
The survey found that while 90 percent of Belgians were aware of the disease only 75 percent were aware that they could catch it, 50 percent thought about getting vaccinated and 15 percent were actually vaccinated.
“Patients wait their general practitioners talk to them about hepatitis, but they do not suggest getting vaccinated because they think their patients will find it too expensive,” said Professor Van Damme of Ghent University.
Only 3 percent of Belgians mistakenly believe that a vaccination will offer them total protection from the disease and only 2 percent believe the vaccination is without risks or side effects, he added.
Hepatitis A can be transmitted through fecal matter, food or water. Travelers should be warned that the virus is present in Italy and northern Africa.
Hepatitis B can be transmitted through sexual contact, blood or saliva kills 2.5 million people annually across the globe. In 10 percent of adult patients it can lead to cirrhosis of the liver or cancer, Van Damme warned.
More than 70,000 people in Belgium are carriers of the hepatitis B virus and the numbers of hepatitis A cases rose by 13 percent in just one year (from 2002 to 2003).
Belgian authorities launched a hepatitis B vaccinations campaign in 1999 and some 15,000 children have been vaccinated against the disease annually since then.
More needs to be done, however, to vaccinate groups particularly at risk, as well as all travelers, against hepatitis A, said Van Damme.
One full vaccination guarantees protection for life, he added.
Subject: Belgian News