Concerned about the high prevalence of hepatitis B, the Health Ministry will carry out nationwide screening tests for pregnant women this year to prevent further spread of the disease.
Tjandra Yoga Aditama, the Health Ministry's director general for disease control and environmental health said on Friday that the mass screening would be conducted in Jakarta first, in cooperation with community health centers.
'Our initial target is to screen 5,000 pregnant women and 1,000 medical personnel all over the city. The program will be started in October this year,' Tjandra told reporters on Friday, adding that similar programs would also be conducted in other provinces next year.
He added that once a pregnant woman was found to be infected with hepatitis B, as shown in her blood test result, the health center would ensure that her baby would be given the Hepatitis B vaccine at the time of birth.
The government has included the hepatitis B vaccine in its health program since 1997, to increase the prevalence of the hepatitis B antibody ( anti-HB ) among children under five.
Data from the 2007 Basic Health Research ( Riskesdas ) shows that the number of Indonesian people with anti-HBs is around 30 percent.
The number of children aged one to four years with anti-HB is just over 50 percent.
'The screening is needed to cut down the virus transmission, particularly mother-to-baby transmission, which is the main cause of the spread of the virus in the country,' Rino A. Gani, a hepatologist from the University of Indonesia's school of medicine said on Friday.
'Despite the regular hepatitis vaccinations, the prevalence of hepatitis B among Indonesians aged one to four years stands at 7.2 percent, something that we have to be concerned about,' said Rino, who is also the chairman of the Association of Indonesian Liver Researchers ( PPHI ).
Riskesdas data also shows that the prevalence of hepatitis B among all the public in Indonesia is 9.4 percent, which means around 22 million people are infected by the virus.
Meanwhile, the prevalence of hepatitis C is around 2 to 4 percent, which means around 5 million to 7 million people are infected by the disease.
According to the Health Ministry, more than 25 million people in Indonesia are infected with hepatitis B and C, and 50 percent of total hepatitis-infected patients suffer from chronic liver disease.
Furthermore, about 1.25 million or 10 percent of patients with chronic liver disease have the potential to suffer from liver cancer.
'However, this number is only the tip of the iceberg. It doesn't really describe the actual condition of the number of people infected in the country, because there are no specific figures on people who have been infected by the disease,' Rino said.