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

Hepatitis C kills more Americans than HIV: study

February 23, 2012
More Americans died in 2007 of hepatitis C infection, which causes incurable liver disease, than from the virus that causes AIDS, US health authorities said this week.

CDC to baby boomers: Get tested for hepatitis C

May 18, 2012
(AP) -- For the first time, health officials are proposing that all baby boomers get tested for hepatitis C.

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

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

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.