WHO urges action over growing hepatitis epidemic

WHO report sets goal to eliminate hepatitis by 2030

WHO: Hepatitis Death Toll Rising, Vaccination Works But Access To Tests And Medicines Still Issue

Friday said in an report that an estimated 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Some 96 percent of all hepatitis mortality is in the viral B or C forms of the disease.

"For the first time in the history of viral hepatitis, we have an understanding of the true impact of the disease." said Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

The report shows that 325 million people live with viral hepatitis or approximately 4.4 percent of the world's population.

According to Yvan Hutin, technical officer at World Health Organization and lead author of the report, speaking at the briefing, at the end of 2015, only 9 percent of hepatitis B infected people were aware of their infection, and about 20 percent of hepatitis C infected people were aware of their condition. The number of children infected with hepatitis B has been "reduced dramatically", and the number of those children who become chronic carriers of hepatitis B, and thus at risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer, is declining substantially, she said.

Raquel Peck, CEO of World Hepatitis Alliance.

The report reveals that the death rate due to viral hepatitis has risen by 22%, while deaths attributed to other diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV show a downward trend from the year 2000.

One such action is the scaling up of birth dose vaccination against hepatitis B. Despite the success in rolling out childhood hepatitis B vaccination, where coverage has reached 84%, coverage with the initial birth dose vaccination is still unacceptably low at 39%.

The most effective hep-B treatment is tenofovir, and costs roughly $48 per year.

Around 1.75 million people were newly infected with HCV in 2015, bringing the global total to 71 million, figures suggests.

Hepatitis A: It's usually caught by consuming food and drink contaminated with the poo of an infected person and is most common in countries where sanitation is poor.

According to the report, access to affordable hepatitis testing is limited, particularly in low and middle-income countries, which account for the largest proportion of persons living with hepatitis B and C.

Hepatitis C is transmitted through unsafe injection practices, inadequate sterilization of medical equipment, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products. Some countries reserve the treatment of hepatitis C to those who have advanced infection.

Hepatitis C: It's usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, commonly through sharing needles used to inject drugs. The event will also encourage innovation in research and have a dedicated focus on sustainable financing for elimination, all of which are needed to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

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