Health

WHO: Hepatitis is second-leading infectious cause of death worldwide

More than 6,000 people are infected with viral hepatitis every day – and progress in combating the disease has stalled, suggests a recently released report by the World Health Organization.

The analysis, released at the Global Hepatitis Summit in Lisbon this month, examines the burden of viral hepatitis in 187 countries and assesses the world’s progress towards eliminating the disease.

Although hepatitis can be caused by excessive alcohol consumption and certain medications, it can also be triggered by a virus that causes liver inflammation, jaundice, fever, and other symptoms. There are five main strains of the virus, and some types can be prevented through vaccination. Two strains of the virus, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, cause long-term illness, with hepatitis B accounting for the vast majority of deaths.

Deaths from the disease are increasing, the report notes, making viral hepatitis the second leading cause of death among non-Covid communicable diseases worldwide. In 2022, the authors write, the number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased to 1.3 million worldwide, compared to 1.1 million in 2019. Although new cases declined during this period, the report says the world is “off track” from the WHO’s goal of reducing new hepatitis infections by 90 percent and deaths by 65 percent by 2030.

Two-thirds of the global burden of viral hepatitis falls on just 10 countries: China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Russia. Inequalities in primary care, availability of medicines, testing and vaccination are behind these disparities, the report suggests.

“This report paints a troubling picture: despite global progress in preventing hepatitis infections, deaths are increasing because too few people with hepatitis are diagnosed and treated,” said the director. General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in a press release.

The report identifies funding challenges that could further limit progress. But the WHO also concludes that a public health approach that expands equitable access to hepatitis interventions could get the world back on track and help eliminate the disease by the end of the decade.

News Source : www.washingtonpost.com
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