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‘Cure-a-Country’ Viral Hepatitis Elimination

Niue leads the world with the first hepatitis B and C population screen

Global Health New Zealand (GHNZ) announces a milestone in the implementation of the first Pacific “Cure-a-Country” viral hepatitis elimination project.

The Niue Ministry of Social Services Health Department has not only achieved an outstanding and efficient Covid-19 vaccine rollout, with 98.6% now having received two doses of vaccine; they have have simultaneously rapid tested 90% of those over 18 for viral hepatitis.

This is a world first in viral hepatitis elimination. The World Health Organisation has set the global target of 2030 for that; with this milestone Niue is on track to be the first nation to reach that target.

"My warmest congratulations to the government and Public Health Team in Niue. To leverage their outstanding vaccine rollout as an opportunity to do hepatitis screening, at the same time, is also a world first and sets a wonderful example of what can be done" - Professor Michael Schultz, Head of Department Medicine, Otago University and President, New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology.

GHNZ project Director Hazel Heal says special mention must be made of Director of Social Services Mrs Gaylene Tasmania, Acting Director of Health Dr Edgar Akau’ola, Director of Public Health Grizelda Mokoia and her team, and Andy Manu from laboratory services for their wonderful leadership, enthusiasm and work. Their example now becomes a model for all the Pacific and beyond.

The screening revealed Niue has a very low prevalence of viral hepatitis. The global average is 7%. In Niue, only 1% of the 840 tested were found to be positive. Those eight people are now being connected to ongoing care and medication.

GHNZ project advisor, and world leading hepatitis researcher Professor Ed Gane from Auckland Liver Unit has congratulated Niue’s Public Health Department:

“Congratulations Dr Eddie, for achieving the first national screening programme for both HBV and HCV, under the shadow of the pandemic. Your population’s very low number of infections is evidence of the high rate of hepatitis B immunisations, which seems to be echoed by your wonderful COVID vaccination uptake”.

The elimination project is funded by philanthropic donations sourced through Edmund Hillary Fellows. Further donations are now being sought for the next country project.

Niue Public Health Officer Ashleigh Pihigia prepares 800 research questionnaires for posting to Professor Michael Schultz at the Otago School of Medicine July 23 2021 Photo: Grizelda Mokoia.

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