We can eliminate viral hepatitis around the world.

The global burden of viral hepatitis is substantial; in terms of mortality, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infections are on a par with HIV, malaria and tuberculosis, among the top four global infectious diseases. Viral Hepatitis is a serious threat to global health. Hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) viruses spread from person to person through blood and other bodily fluids. Hepatitis transmission is an especially big problem in Asian and African countries. Poor infection control in hospitals and inadequate screening of the blood supply allow the virus to spread virtually unchecked. The tools required to eliminate viral hepatitis are both affordable and available.

This year’s Nobel prize (2021) for Medicine – awarded to the three scientists – Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice – who discovered the hepatitis C virus. Globally, 71 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C; that’s more than the population of the UK or nearly twice the population of Canada. A significant proportion of those people will develop cirrhosis or liver cancer.

A timely hepatitis B vaccination of newborns, plus vaccination during school years and the adequate diagnosis and treatment of mothers living with chronic hepatitis B during pregnancy can reduce mother-to-child transmission of the infection more than 95% of the time and break the cycle of transmission across generations. Available drugs can cure more than 90% of people with chronic hepatitis C infection, preventing liver cancer and liver failure.

Resolution in 2016:

In 2016, the 194 Member States of the World Health Organization committed to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030, with a particular focus on hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus infection. With only 10 years to go until the 2030 deadline is reached, and although much progress has been made towards elimination, there are still some important gaps in terms of policy and progress.

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