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WHO sounds alarm on viral hepatitis infections claiming 3,500 lives every day

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Geneva, Apr 9 (PTI) The World Health Organisation on Tuesday flagged that the number of lives lost due to viral hepatitis is increasing with the disease being the second leading infectious cause of death globally -- with 1.3 million deaths per year – the same as tuberculosis.

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The WHO 2024 Global Hepatitis Report said new data from 187 countries show that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, 83 per cent were caused by hepatitis B, and 17 per cent by hepatitis C.

“Every day, there are 3,500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections,” the report released at the World Hepatitis Summit said.

Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam collectively shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C.

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Achieving universal access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in these 10 countries by 2025, alongside intensified efforts in the African Region, is essential to get the global response back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN health agency said in a statement.

“This report paints a troubling picture: despite progress globally in preventing hepatitis infections, deaths are rising because far too few people with hepatitis are being diagnosed and treated,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “WHO is committed to supporting countries to use all the tools at their disposal - at access prices - to save lives and turn this trend around.” Updated WHO estimates indicate that 254 million people lived with hepatitis B and 50 million with hepatitis C in 2022; half the burden of chronic hepatitis B and C infections is among people 30–54 years old, with 12 per cent among children under 18 years of age. Men account for 58 per cent of all cases, the statement said.

Apart from talking about global progress and gaps in diagnosis and treatment, the WHO 2024 Global Hepatitis Report also pointed out disparities in pricing and service delivery, and said, funding remains a challenge.

The report outlined a series of actions to advance a public health approach to viral hepatitis, designed to accelerate progress towards ending the epidemic by 2030.

These include: expanding access to testing and diagnostics; shifting from policies to implementation for equitable treatment; strengthening primary care prevention efforts; using improved data for action; and engaging affected communities and civil society among others. PTI NPK NPK NPK

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