Hepatitis kills 1.4 million

National, Normal

The National, Monday July 29th, 2013

 THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced that hepatitis (5) viruses cause severe liver infections and 1.4 million deaths every year. 

On World Hepatitis Day yesterday, WHO urged governments to act against the five hepatitis viruses.   

WHO assistant director-general for health security and environment, Dr Keiji Fukuda, said the infections of hepatitis B and C were silent and symptoms were often not recognised until the liver is severely damaged. 

He said the nature of the disease calls for an urgent universal access to immunisation, screening, diagnosis and antiviral therapy.  

“Some of these hepatitis viruses, most notably types B and C, can also lead to chronic and debilitating illnesses such as liver cancer and cirrhosis (abnormal liver condition) besides loss of income and high medical expenses for hundreds of millions of people worldwide,” Fukuda said.

Viral hepatitis is referred to as a ‘silent epidemic’ because most persons do not realise that they are infected and, over decades, slowly progress to liver disease.

WHO is currently developing new hepatitis C screening, care and treatment guidelines, which will provide recommendations on seven key areas such as testing approaches; behavioural interventions (alcohol reduction); noninvasive assessment of liver fibrosis; and the selection of hepatitis C drug combinations.

Global hepatitis programme team leader Dr Stefan Wiktor says new and  more effective medicines to prevent the progression of chronic hepatitis B and C are in the pipeline.  

“However, these will be expensive and therapy will require monitoring with sophisticated laboratory tests. To cure these viruses, medicines must become more accessible.”