Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Health | By Jay Jacobs

World Health Organization report sets goal to eliminate hepatitis by 2030

World Health Organization report sets goal to eliminate hepatitis by 2030

The report contains new baseline data on the impacts of viral hepatitis (hepatitis B and C), regionally and globally, and aims to standardise understanding of the disease; an essential starting point to measure progress towards achieving the 2030 elimination goal.

Latest estimates show that viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015 and that some 1.75 million people were newly infected with hepatitis C, bringing the total number of people living with this disease globally to 71 million.

"Viral hepatitis is now recognized as a major public health challenge that requires an urgent response", said Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.

An estimated 325 million people are living with hepatitis B or C and few are aware of their condition, with death tolls from the viruses rising, the United Nations said Friday.

Viral hepatitis killed 1.34 million people in 2015, a toll comparable to tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The hepatitis B problem is most acute in the WHO's Western Pacific Region, which includes China, Malaysia and southeast Asia. The virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person. A mere nine percent of hepatitis B sufferers have been tested and are aware of their infection.

The WHO said better access to vaccines and medicines is needed, as well as policies to reduce infections among people who inject drugs.

Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, team leader, WHO Department of Immunisation, Vaccines and Biologicals, also speaking at the briefing, underlined the impact of vaccination campaigns.

As a result, millions of people are at risk of a slow progression to chronic liver disease, cancer and death, says the WHO.

The report shows that since 2000, deaths due to viral hepatitis increased by 22%, while deaths due to other diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV have been declining.

It is generally a mild and short-term infection that doesn't require any treatment, but it can be serious in a small number of people.

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.

World Health Organization said hundreds of thousands of people infected with these diseases are dying because they lack access to life-saving testing and treatment.

Restrepo said only 50 percent of countries were delivering this vaccine. "Sofosbuvir, daclatasvir and the sofosbuvir/ledipasvir combination, which are part of the preferred regimens in the WHO guidelines, are included in the 19th WHO model list of essential medicines and in the WHO prequalification programme".

HCV, usually spread through blood-to-blood contact with an infected person, can be cured relatively swiftly, but many patients across the world are unable to afford the medication. The agency noted that most people are untested and do not even know that they are infected. "They are still very high in many countries, particularly in high-income countries", he said.

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