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Hepatitis Preventable, Treatable, Beatable, but Its Toll Is Increasing, WHO Report Shows

April 26, 2017

In a report documenting multiple missed opportunities to detect, treat, cure, and prevent transmission of hepatitis B and C viruses, the World Health Organization recently released its first global estimates of the impact of the infections, showing their toll in 2015 exceeded deaths caused by HIV, and was comparable to the number of deaths caused by tuberculosis.

An estimated 1.35 million people died as a result of viral hepatitis in 2015, reflecting a 22 percent increase in deaths due to liver inflammation caused by a virus, the report notes. About 97 percent of those deaths are caused hepatitis B, which is concentrated in the African and Western Pacific regions, and hepatitis C, which is distributed more widely across the world, according to the report. Worldwide about 325 million people are living with the viruses.

Most of the 257 million people living with hepatitis B became infected before the advent and accessibility of a vaccine against the virus introduced over the last three and a half decades. But while the three dose vaccine is most effective if the first dose is given at birth, only about 39 percent of babies are vaccinated at birth, and rates of the disease among children in Africa continue to hover around 3 percent, according to the report. Deaths will continue to rise among people already infected if they are not diagnosed and treated, the report points out. But in 2015 only 9 percent of people living with hepatitis B had been diagnosed, and only 20 percent of people living with hepatitis C knew it, according to the report. No more than 8 percent of people diagnosed with hepatitis B began treatment, and about 7 percent of those with hepatitis C did.

This excerpt was cross-posted with the permission of Science Speaks. Read the original article.


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