SEOUL, Dec. 14 (Korea Bizwire) – Nine out of ten South Korean young adults in their 20s lack antibodies for hepatitis A, which means their bodies are far more susceptible to infection than others who do.
The discovery was made after researchers from Seoul National University Hospital examined the cases of 5,856 individuals 10 years old and above who had participated in a nationally conducted health inspection drive. The results of the research were publicly disclosed on December 13 and published in the scientific journal PLOS One.
According to the data provided in the journal, 72.5 percent were found to possess hepatitis A antibodies.
However, the existence of the proteins was more prevalent in older age demographics, and was nearly nonexistent in younger groups. While 97.8 percent of those 45 and above and 46.6 percent of individuals between the ages of 30 and 44 possessed the antibodies, 24 percent between the ages of 15 and 19 and 11.9 percent of 20-somethings could say the same.
The only exception was children from 10 to 14 years of age, with 59.7 percent of them having hepatitis A antibodies. The SNU research team believes this anomaly is due to a government program providing free inoculation for young children that was run in 2015. This would explain why those in the pre-teens to young teens age group have higher rates of being protected against hepatitis A, while those older – who were not included in the government program – are more vulnerable.
Hepatitis A is caused by a highly contagious virus that is either transmitted through direct exposure to an infected person’s waste matter or is contracted via contact with contaminated objects. The virus causes an inflammatory liver infection, with symptoms of fatigue and high fever that can misguide people to believing they have a common cold.
As of yet, there is no specific treatment available.
Hepatitis A has been drawing attention internationally as cases of infection being reported are on the rise. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 21 deaths caused by hepatitis A were recorded in California last month. In Michigan, hepatitis A claimed 19 lives and resulted in hospitalization for 416 of the 495 reported cases of infection.
Domestically, yearly totals of infection are similarly growing more numerous, from 1,197 in 2012 to 4,677 last year. This year, there have been 4,266 cases so far, with the most recent high of 5,521 being recorded in 2011.
Warning that in severe cases, infection may lead to death, the SNU researchers urged individuals who were not inoculated through the government’s 2015 program to seek out and if necessary pay the estimated fee of 70,000 to 80,000 won for a shot.