Viral Hepatitis Deaths Increasing, WHO Reveals

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Apr 24, 2017 01:00 AM EDT

Viral hepatitis infections are raising concerns to public health. (Photo : Dilip Paithankar/Purdue School of Chemical Engineering/Getty Images)

Viral hepatitis is a serious public health concern that needs a crucial medical response. The Global Hepatitis Report presented the first ever comprehensive details surrounding the disease.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 325 million people worldwide are infected with the chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). The majority of these patients have insufficient access to testing and treatment, which could save them as per the WHO Global hepatitis report of 2017. Consequently, millions of people are at high risk of chronic liver disease, cancer, and even death due to unattended viral hepatitis infection.

"For the first time in the history of viral hepatitis, we have an understanding of the true impact of the disease," Charles Gore, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance said. "WHO's Global Hepatitis Report provides us with new data and a set of very specific, global and regional targets to reach by 2030 - for instance global deaths from hepatitis must be brought down from 1.34 million to lower than 469,000 people per year."

Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million fatalities as compared to the annual deaths due to HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria. There was only 9 percent of people, who are living with hepatitis B virus infection while 20 percent people surviving with hepatitis C infection. These patients got tested, and they are aware of their condition.

The main causes of latest hepatitis C infections are an accidental needle prick among healthcare workers and injection drug use. These incidents have a major contribution to the 1.75 million new infections.

According to EurekAlert, the report indicates that deaths due to viral hepatitis went up by 22 percent since 2000. On the other hand, rates of deaths due to HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria are decreasing.

"Viral hepatitis is now recognized as a major public health challenge that requires an urgent response," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "Vaccines and medicines to tackle hepatitis exist, and WHO is committed to helping ensure these tools reach all those who need them."

Meanwhile, a World Immunization Week will be conducted on April 24 to 30. In connection with that event, WHO encourages everyone to acquire vaccination against 26 diseases. These include vaccines that prevent three kinds of viral hepatitis (A, B and E).

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