UN agency launches action plan against 'hidden' hepatitis

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday measures to fight the "hidden epidemic" of hepatitis which kills more than one million people a year.

The virus, which settles in the liver causing inflammation, affects 500 million people worldwide but can go unnoticed for years and even decades, the UN health agency told reporters in Geneva.

"The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated," says Dr Sylvie Briand of WHO's Pandemic and 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," she added.

One in 12 people are infected by the virus which exists in five forms: A, B, C, D and E.

The WHO is particulary keen to target types B and C since "a high proportion" of people only become aware of their infection when they are chronically ill.

"This can sometimes be decades after infection," said Briand.

Launched ahead of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, the WHO's multi-pronged action plan to eradicate the virus calls on governments to raise awareness, transform research into policy and action, and prevent transmission by effective screening, care and treatment.

"It's a framework for global action so we all collaborate to fight the hidden epidemic", said Briand.

Individuals can protect themselves by washing their hands, food safety practices, practising and avoiding with infected needles, "one of the most common ways of getting infected in some countries", said Briand.

The virus was only discovered in 1989 but vaccines are available for all virus types except C.

A new generation of anti-viral treatments is also on offer for , said Briand, adding that other treatments to stop the B type developing into and cancer are also coming online.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Possible hepatitis C vaccine

Sep 05, 2007

Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infects up to 500,000 people in the UK alone, many of the infections going undiagnosed. It is the single biggest cause of people requiring a liver transplant in Britain. Now, in a collaborative effort ...

US regulators approve new hepatitis C drug

May 14, 2011

US regulators on Friday approved the first new treatment for hepatitis C in more than a decade, a Merck pharmaceutical known as Victrelis, to be taken with the current two-drug regimen.

Recommended for you

Dallas hospital confirms first Ebola case in US

6 minutes ago

A patient at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, federal health officials announced Tuesday.

First case of Ebola diagnosed in US

1 hour ago

The United States has diagnosed its first case of the deadly Ebola virus in a man who became infected in Liberia and traveled to Texas, US health officials said Tuesday.

Study finds acupuncture does not improve chronic knee pain

2 hours ago

Among patients older than 50 years with moderate to severe chronic knee pain, neither laser nor needle acupuncture provided greater benefit on pain or function compared to sham laser acupuncture, according to a study in the ...

Ebola outbreak nears end in Nigeria

2 hours ago

The Ebola outbreak in Nigeria is almost over, US health officials said Tuesday, in a rare sign of authorities turning the tide on the highly contagious disease that has killed more than 3,000 in West Africa.

User comments