WHO: over 350 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related diseases

Photo: WHO: over 350 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related  diseases / Society

Azerbaijan, Baku, July 26/ Trend, S.Ahmadova/

Every year, about 1.4 million people experience chronic illness from their infection with hepatitis A, approximately 2 billion - with Hepatitis B and around 150 million people - with Hepatitis C, The United Nations Department of Public Information Office in Azerbaijan reported.

World Hepatitis Day is celebrated on July 28 every year. This year's World Hepatitis Day slogan is: "It's closer than you think".

Under the World Hepatitis Day theme WHO is urging governments to strengthen efforts to fight viral hepatitis that kills about one million people every year and an estimated 500 million people experience chronic illness from their infection with hepatitis. It is a major cause of liver cancer and liver cirrhosis.

The campaign focuses on raising awareness of the different forms of hepatitis: what they are and how they are transmitted; who is at risk; and the various methods of prevention and treatment.

"The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated," says Dr Sylvie Briand of WHO's Pandemic and Epidemic Disease Department. "Only by increasing awareness of the different forms of hepatitis, and how they can be prevented and treated, can we take the first step towards full control of the disease and save thousands of lives."

Given the scale of the epidemic - with 1 in 12 people chronically infected - and recent advances in prevention and treatment, the World Health Assembly in 2010, Resolution WHA63.18 was adopted at the World Health Assembly, calling for a comprehensive approach to the prevention and control of viral hepatitis and designated 28 July as World Hepatitis Day. The Day serves to promote greater understanding of hepatitis as a global public health problem and to stimulate the strengthening of preventive and control measures against infection in countries throughout the world.

There are five main types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, E. Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D are typically caused by contact with contaminated blood or body fluids.

The global burden of disease due to acute hepatitis B and C, and cancer and cirrhosis of the liver, accounts for about 2.7% of all deaths. This is expected to increase further in the next two decades.

An estimated 57% of liver cirrhosis and 78% of primary liver cancer are due to hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.

In total, about 2 billion people have been infected with HBV; about 600 000 people die each year due to the consequences of hepatitis B.

About 150 million people are chronically infected with HCV (about 10 times higher than HIV estimates); more than 350 000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver diseases.

Hepatitis B and C cause a high burden of disease in the WHO European Region, especially among key populations. Only 1 in 5 persons exposed to the hepatitis B and C virus develops acute symptoms, but chronic infection is common. Hepatitis B and C each is estimated to affect up to 2% of the population in the Region (13.3 million people living with chronic hepatitis B, 15 million with chronic hepatitis C); together, they cause over 120 000 deaths per year. Two-thirds of infected persons live in Eastern Europe and central Asia. Co-infection of HCV and HIV is common, especially among people who inject drugs.
In preparation for this year's World Hepatitis Day, WHO is launching a new global framework to tackle the disease. The Prevention and control of viral hepatitis infection: Framework for global action describes four areas of work to prevent and treat hepatitis infection.

Raising awareness, together with promoting partnerships and mobilizing resources constitute the first of the four priorities in WHO's new framework.

The World Health Organization is the United Nations specialized agency for health. It was established on 7 April 1948. WHO's objective, as set out in its Constitution, is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. Health is defined in WHO's Constitution as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

WHO is governed by 193 Member States through the World Health Assembly. The Health Assembly is composed of representatives from WHO's Member States.

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