UN agency launches action plan against 'hidden' hepatitis

July 25, 2012

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.

Explore further: Hepatitis C kills more Americans than HIV: study

Related Stories

Egyptians design 'faster, cheaper' hepatitis C test

March 14, 2012

The American University in Cairo said Wednesday that a team of its researchers has designed a faster and cheaper test for all types of hepatitis C, which it says affects about 10 million Egyptians.

Recommended for you

Listeria infection causes early pregnancy loss in primates

February 21, 2017

Researchers in Wisconsin have discovered how Listeria monocytogenes, a common foodborne pathogen, travels through the mother's body to fatally attack the placenta and fetus during early pregnancy in a macaque monkey.

Listeria may be serious miscarriage threat early in pregnancy

February 21, 2017

Listeria, a common food-borne bacterium, may pose a greater risk of miscarriage in the early stages of pregnancy than appreciated, according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine ...

Ebola linked to habitat destruction

February 20, 2017

A Massey University veterinary scientist has co-authored research suggesting that Ebola virus emergence is linked to the clearing of animal habitat through deforestation in West and Central Africa.

Researcher helps stem the spread of superbugs

February 20, 2017

Katherine Baker feels vindicated. She and other microbiologists have been warning for years that anti-bacterial soaps containing triclosan are bad for the environment, harmful for health, and do nothing to prevent disease.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.