Grizelda Mokoia, her public health team and the Health department are commended for their commitment not only to protecting the island from COVID 19 but also running another disease eradication programme simultaneously.
Grizelda Mokoia told BCN news that since March, they have screened just over 500 people over the age of 18 for Hepatitis B and C, and from those screened, eight people tested positive.
The team at the Health department have been working with a group from New Zealand led by Hepatitis campaigner Hazel Heal to screen and treat Hepatitis B and C.
Ms Heal says that her team was prepared to come to Niue but Covid 19 hit the world which changed their plans so they are grateful to Grizelda and her team at the Niue health department for running this programme. The plan is to test at least 90 per cent of the eligible population by the end of June and to present their results during the World Hepatitis awareness day in late July. The aim is to make Niue the first country in the world to eradicate Hepatitis B and C.
Hepatitis B and C is highly prevalent in many Pacific islands. BCN news spoke to Hepatologist and Associate Professor Alice Lee from the University of Sydney who has been working with her team in several Pacific countries. Lee and her teams have worked in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and East Timor and she says that the rates of Hepatitis are extremely high in the Pacific, probably the highest in the world.
Alice Lee is also a Senior Staff Specialist at Concord Repatriation General Hospital says it is very important to test for Hepatitis “Many people who have this disease don’t know that they have it because they could be completely asymptomatic until it’s way too late”. The disease is referred to as the ‘Silent Killer’.
Her key message to the people of Niue is to make sure you get tested so you know your Hepatitis status. If you know your status then you can get assessed, get the treatment which can be life-saving. “It’s really important that everyone knows their Hepatitis status”.
Grizelda Mokoia says that they have noticed a slow down in people going in to be screened so they are pleased with the incentives from Hazel Heal and her team to get as many people tested. Anyone who is tested and completes a questionnaire receives a $10 voucher to spend at a local supermarket. Ms Heal is very generous and this week says that if the target of 90 percent is met, then everyone will go into the draw to win one of five $100 shopping vouchers.
Ms Mokoia is asking people on the island to register for both the Covid vaccine and to be screened for Hepatitis B and C. The aim is to complete the screening by the end of June.