GENEVA: World Hepatitis Day is being commemorated around the world on Tuesday to increase awareness about the disease.
This year’s theme is “Hepatitis-free future” with a strong focus on preventing hepatitis B among mothers and newborns. More than 325 million people globally live with hepatitis infection, and for most, testing and treatment remain beyond reach.
World Hepatitis Day is commemorated each year on 28th July to enhance awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes a range of health problems, including liver cancer.
There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus – A, B, C, D and E. Together, hepatitis B and C are the most common cause of deaths, with 1.3 million lives lost each year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, viral hepatitis continues to claim thousands of lives every day.
World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to step up national and international efforts on hepatitis, encourage actions and engagement by individuals, partners and the public and highlight the need for a greater global response as outlined in the WHO’s Global hepatitis report of 2017.
The date of 28th July was chosen because it is the birthday of Nobel-prize winning scientist Dr Baruch Blumberg, who discovered hepatitis B virus (HBV) and developed a diagnostic test and vaccine for the virus.
Low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed in order to achieve global elimination goals by 2030. Hepatitis C is a major cause of liver cancer, and globally an estimated 71 million people have the chronic infection.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause a range of health problems and can be fatal. While they all cause liver disease, they differ in important ways including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.
Some types of hepatitis are preventable through vaccination. A WHO study found that an estimated 4.5 million premature deaths could be prevented in low- and middle-income countries by 2030 through vaccination, diagnostic tests, medicines and education campaigns.
WHO’s global hepatitis strategy, endorsed by all WHO member states, aims to reduce new hepatitis infections by 90% and deaths by 65% between 2016 and 2030.