Niue may be the first country in the world to eliminate viral Hepatitis as part of a coordinated project to ‘Cure a Country’ between the Niue Health department and Global Health New Zealand (GHNZ).
According to a press release from the government, Minister of Health Hon. Sauni Tongatule says that he is very pleased with the results of the screening program which started in March this year.
Statistics from the Niue health department indicate that 90% of the island’s eligible adult population of 18 years had taken the test and eight people tested positive or 1 per cent which is well below the global average of 7 percent.
“It was pleasing that the prevalence of viral Hepatitis in Niue is well below the global average of 7%. Nonetheless this screening has allowed Niue’s Health Department to ensure that the eight affected residents to start receiving treatment, care and medication for their viral hepatitis condition.”
The Niue health department earlier this month reached herd immunity against COVID 19 with 98.6 percent of the eligible population taking the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
The efforts of the small team at the Niue health department to meet the UN targets set for 2030 and reach herd immunity are being congratulated by leading experts in the field. Professor Michael Schultz, Head of Department Medicine, Otago University and President, New Zealand Society of Gastroenterology says that Niue sets an example of what can be achieved.
“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
GHNZ project advisor, and world leading hepatitis researcher Professor Ed Gane from Auckland Liver Unit also congratulated the Niue health team led by Director Dr. Edgar Akauola.
“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”
Global Health New Zealand project director Hazel Heal whose been supporting this initiative from Otago says that special mention must be made of the Director General of Niues Ministry of Social Services Gaylene Tasmania, Director of Health Dr. Edgar Akauola and Head of Public Health Grizelda Mokoia (pictured) and Andy Manu from laboratory services for their wonderful leadership, enthusiasm and work.
Hazel Heal says that Niue’s example now becomes a model for all the Pacific and beyond.
Eradicating Hepatitis will be added to Niue health department record which also gained recognition from the World Health organisation in 2016 for the successful campaign to eradicate Lymphatic filariasis, a mosquito-borne parasitic disease.
Niue’s efforts to be the first country in the world to eliminate viral hepatitis is funded by donations through the New Zealand philanthropic organisation Edmund Hilary Fellows.
Ms Heal told BCN news in an earlier interview that she hopes Niue’s efforts to eliminate Hepatitis B and C will feature at the World Hepatitis day on July 28th raising awareness of viral Hepatitis.