Hepatitis leads to 1.4m deaths annually

During celebrations to mark world Hepatitis day recently, the World Health Organisation urged governments to act against the five hepatitis viruses that cause severe liver infections and lead to over 1.4 million deaths each year.The complexity of hepatitis disease lies in the existence of different types of viruses. The director Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases at WHO, Dr Sylvie Briand, says Hepatitis A and E are food borne and waterborne infections, which cause millions of cases of acute illness every year, sometimes with several months needed for a person to fully recover.

Hepatitis B, C, and D are spread by infected body fluids including blood, by sexual contact, mother-to-child transmission during birth or by contaminated medical equipment. Hepatitis B and C have a greater health burden in terms of death because they can cause chronic infection, U.N. must take accountability for cholera epidemic in Haiti, which can lead to liver cirrhosis and cancer.Viral hepatitis is ‘silent epidemic’ because most persons do not realise that they are infected and, over decades, slowly progress to liver disease.“The fact that many hepatitis B and C infections are silent, causing no symptoms until there is severe damage to the liver, points to the urgent need for universal access to immunisation, screening, diagnosis and antiviral therapy,” said Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO Assistant Director General for Health Security and the Environment.

The challenges posed by hepatitis were formally acknowledged by the World Health Assembly in 2010, when it adopted its first resolution on viral hepatitis, and called for a comprehensive approach to prevention and control. WHO has been collaborating closely with countries and partners to build a strong global response and is currently developing new hepatitis C screening, care and treatment guidelines, which will provide recommendations on key areas such as testing approaches; behavioural interventions; non-invasive assessment of liver fibrosis; and the selection of hepatitis C drug combinations.

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