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Chinese focus for liver health nurses

New Zealand’s Chinese communities are among the highest risk groups for hepatitis B. That’s why the Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand will be increasing efforts to engage with them in 2020.

These engagement initiatives include next month’s Chinese New Year festival in Auckland. Two of the organisation’s community nurses will be attending the festival to raise awareness of hepatitis B. 

The hepatitis B virus is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through bodily fluids, including blood, semen and vaginal fluids. About 100,000 people in NZ have chronic hepatitis B. Many of them don’t know they have it. Understanding the risks is vital, as is the need to get tested. The Hepatitis Foundation continuously strives to educate people on both counts. “If you think you might be at risk of having hepatitis B, getting tested is vital,” says Hepatitis Foundation CEO Susan Hay. “The virus often begins damaging the liver before any symptoms appear.”

Chinese immigrants have a high risk of hepatitis because, while a vaccination programme was introduced in China in 2002, immunisation levels have not yet reached a point where they can effectively limit spread. Of the 350 million people living with hepatitis B globally, one-third are Chinese. In New Zealand, one in 10 people of Chinese ethnicity have hepatitis B. People aged over 25 may not have had a vaccination and testing for hepatitis B is strongly recommended. 

“Recent research shows a large percentage of Chinese New Zealanders are unaware of the risks, and this needs to change to help reduce the incidence of hepatitis B in New Zealand,” Susan says.

Hepatitis B can be successfully managed with regular monitoring. Patients registered with the Hepatitis Foundation receive free long-term care and support.

The Chinese New Year festival is at the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland on January 18.


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