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Cases of hepatitis B and C hit 325 million worldwide

21 April 2017

Annually 6-10 million people are newly infected and 1.4 million die due to viral hepatitis.

"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 new report "aims to provide a starting point for hepatitis elimination by indicating baseline statistics on HBV and HCV infections, including mortality, and coverage levels of key interventions", World Health Organization said.

New data published by the United Nations health agency has revealed that a vast majority of the estimated 325 million people living with chronic hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus infection lack access to life-saving testing and treatment, placing them at a great risk of chronic liver disease, cancer, and even death.

The two most common forms, which are responsible for 96 per cent of deaths from the disease, are hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV).

Since 2000, deaths due to viral hepatitis increased by 22 percent, while deaths due to other diseases (tuberculosis, malaria, HIV) have been experiencing significant drops.

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"That is great and as I mentioned because of this, 85 percent of the infants worldwide are protected with three doses of hepatitis B vaccine". She added, "We have the knowledge, what we need now is action".

Major improvements have been made with hepatitis B vaccination in infancy reaching 84 percent, which has factored in reducing the infection's prevalence among children to 1.3 percent, according to the report.

"... WHO's Global Hepatitis Report estimates that 71 million people in 2015 were living with HCV, down from an earlier estimate of 130 million to 150 million". There are 5 hepatitis viruses causing Hepatitis types A, B, C, D, and E.

Hirnschall said there was a range of interventions and tools, including highly effective vaccines and medicines that can prevent hepatitis from becoming a chronic and fatal disease.

The picture is different for hepatitis B medicines, which are "available and low-priced in most high-prevalence countries".

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Around one in four people will fight off the infection, which doesn't usually cause any noticeable symptoms, and be free of the virus.

Hepatitis is spread through blood and other body fluids.

Hepatitis E is transmitted via the fecal-oral route, principally via contaminated water.

The World Hepatitis Summit 2017 is a joint initiative between WHO and WHA.

On 1- 3 November, hundreds of policymakers, patients, civil society and public health experts will gather at the World Hepatitis Summit, in Sao Paulo, Brazil to discuss how to fast track the path to elimination.

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'But the data clearly highlight the urgency with which we must address the remaining gaps in testing and treatment'. 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.

Cases of hepatitis B and C hit 325 million worldwide