WHO: Hepatitis data highlights need for urgent response21/04/17Government
New World Health Origanization (WHO) data has revealed that an estimated 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
The WHO Global hepatitis report 2017 has indicated that the large majority of these people lack access to lifesaving testing and treatment. As a result, millions of people are at risk of a slow progression to chronic liver disease, cancer and death.
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director general, said: “Viral hepatitis is now recognised as a major public health challenge that requires an urgent response.
“Vaccines and medicines to tackle hepatitis exist, and WHO is committed to helping ensure these tools reach all those who need them.”
HBV levels vary across WHO regions with the WHO African Region and WHO Western Pacific Region sharing the greatest burden.
Unsafe injections in healthcare settings and drug use are considered to be the most common routes of HCV transmissions.
There is currently no vaccine against HCV, and access to treatment for both viruses is still low.
WHO’s Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis aims to test 90% and treat 80% of people with HBV and HCV by 2030.
HBV infection requires lifelong treatment, and WHO has recommended the medicine tenofovir, already widely used in HIV treatment. HCV can be cured within a relatively short time using the effective direct-acting antivirals (DAAs).
Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of WHO’s department of HIV and the Global Hepatitis programme, said: “We are still at an early stage of the viral hepatitis response, but the way forward looks promising.
“More countries are making hepatitis services available for people in need – a diagnostic test costs less than $1 (93 cents) and the cure for HCV can be below $200 (~€186). But the data clearly highlight the urgency with which we must address the remaining gaps in testing and treatment.”