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

New approach to tracking how deadly 'superbugs' travel could slow their spread

November 22, 2017
Killer bacteria - ones that have out-evolved our best antibiotics—may not go away anytime soon. But a new approach to tracking their spread could eventually give us a fighting chance to keep their death toll down.

Research points to diagnostic test for top cause of liver transplant in kids

November 22, 2017
Biliary atresia is the most common cause of liver transplants for children in the United States. Now researchers report in Science Translational Medicine finding a strong biomarker candidate that could be used for earlier ...

Metabolites altered in chronic kidney disease

November 22, 2017
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects 1 in 7 people in the United States, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). These individuals have a very high risk of cardiovascular ...

Rainfall can indicate that mosquito-borne epidemics will occur weeks later

November 22, 2017
A new study demonstrates that outbreaks of mosquito-borne viruses Zika and Chikungunya generally occur about three weeks after heavy rainfall.Researchers also found that Chikungunya will predominate over Zika when both circulate ...

Alcohol consumption and metabolic factors act together to increase the risk of severe liver disease

November 22, 2017
A new study provides insights into the interaction between alcohol consumption and metabolic factors in predicting severe liver disease in the general population. The findings, which are published in Hepatology, indicate ...

Gastric acid suppressant lansoprazole may target tuberculosis

November 21, 2017
A cheap and widely used drug, used to treat conditions such as heartburn, gastritis and ulcers, could work against the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB), according to new research from UCL and the London School of Hygiene ...

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.