World Health Organization: July 28, 2013: This is hepatitis. Know it. Confront it
Hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E can cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. These viruses constitute a major global health risk with around 240 million people being chronically infected with hepatitis B and around 150 million people chronically infected with hepatitis C.
Goal: moving from awareness to commitment and action to address the “silent epidemic” of viral hepatitis
Millions of people are living with viral hepatitis and millions more are at risk of becoming infected. Most people with chronic infection with hepatitis B or C are unaware that they continue to carry the virus. They are therefore at high risk of developing severe chronic liver disease and can unknowingly transmit the virus to other people. Approximately one million people die each year from causes related to viral hepatitis, most commonly cirrhosis and liver cancer.
World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to focus on specific actions, such as:
- strengthening prevention, screening and control of viral hepatitis and its related diseases;
- increasing hepatitis B vaccine coverage and integration of the vaccine into national immunization programmes;
- coordinating a global response to viral hepatitis.
Although the burden of disease related to hepatitis infection is very high, in most countries, the problem has not been addressed in a comprehensive way for many reasons. These include the fact that most people do not develop any symptoms when they become infected and that they remain free of symptoms often for decades until they develop chronic liver disease. This has largely resulted in “the silent epidemic” we are experiencing today.
Viral hepatitis also places a heavy burden on the health-care system because of the high costs of treatment of liver cancer and liver failure from cirrhosis. In many countries, liver failure from viral hepatitis is the leading reason for liver transplants. Such end-stage treatments are expensive, easily costing up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per person.