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Gov't to strengthen monitoring of hepatitis C

The health ministry rolled out a set of measures Tuesday to further prevent and monitor hepatitis C following the recent mass infection of the virus here.

The Ministry of Welfare and Health said it will examine all hepatitis cases instead of selected samples, as the early diagnosis of hepatitis C virus infection is crucial to preventing a mass infection.

Currently, an epidemiological inspection by health authorities is being conducted only when hospitals or medical facilities across the country voluntarily report the cases.

The ministry said it will require all hospitals to report cases of hepatitis C and an inspection will be conducted for every case.

Also, experts from private organizations or schools will work together with health authorities in conducting the inspections, officials said.

The ministry said it is pushing forward with including hepatitis C checkups as a part of physical examinations for people by the National Health Insurance Corp.

The measures comes as three more people have been infected with hepatitis C, this time after receiving dialysis treatment, last week. They underwent the treatment at a hospital in the central city of Chungju.

Also, more than 200 people were found to have been infected with the disease in the southern part of the country, prompting health authorities to conduct an epidemiological investigation.

Last month, more than 11,000 patients who received treatment at a clinic in Seoul contracted the disease after receiving various injections last year.

The hepatitis C virus causes both acute and chronic infection.

There is currently no vaccine, though about 15 to 45 percent of infected persons will spontaneously recover and clear out the virus within six months of infection without treatment, according to the World Health Organization. (Yonhap)