Cases of Hepatitis B and C Are Surging
Russian officials announced Monday that the number of hepatitis B and C cases in the country has more than doubled to 7 million since 1992. Tatyana Yakovleva, the deputy head of the State Duma's health and sports committee, said that whereas 2 million people were known to carry hepatitis B a decade ago, now more than 5 million cases are registered, and 2 million people are infected with hepatitis C. The majority of the new cases, she said, are among individuals between the ages of 15 and 30 who contracted the virus via unprotected sex or injection drug use. "If problems such as drug addiction and a low awareness of safe sex cannot be resolved within a few years, the only way to stop a hepatitis epidemic will be through preventative means such as vaccinations," Yakovleva noted, calling on the government to provide free hepatitis B shots to children, teenagers, and individuals who are at risk of contracting the disease at work. According to Vasily Uchaikin, the Health Ministry's chief specialist in infectious diseases, only about 58 percent of newborns in Russia receive hepatitis B shots. At present, there is no vaccine against hepatitis C.