WHO Emphasises Need For Increase In Hepatitis Testing, Treatment

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To coincide with World Hepatitis Day on July 28, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust's Viral Hepatitis Team will be raising awareness of the signs and symptoms of hepatitis among the public and health professionals.

According to WHO, viral hepatitis B and C are major health challenges, affecting 325 million people globally, and they are the root causes of liver cancer, leading to 1.34 million deaths every year. There are many causes of hepatitis like viral infections by hepatitis A, B, C, D and E, including auto-immune hepatitis, fatty liver hepatitis, alcohol-induced hepatitis and drug-related hepatitis.

"Worldwide, less than 20 per cent of people had access to testing and treatment services for hepatitis B and C infections at the end of 2016". Chronic hepatitis B lasts longer than six months and is usually an infection that has to be dealt with in the longer-term. World Hepatitis Day unites patient organisations, governments, medical professionals, civil society, industry and the general public to boost the global profile of viral hepatitis. The virus can cause either acute or chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.

Unlike other types of hepatitis, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C. The exact reason hepatitis C is most prevalent in baby boomers is unknown, although transmission of the virus primarily through blood was highest before strong infection control procedures were adopted. Hepatitis B can be managed with highly effective medicines. Hepatitis b and hepatitis c virus infection usually cause chronic hepatitis, which leads to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death.

A postal stamp was also launched on the occasion to sensitise people and spread awareness about the disease. Ninety percent or more of newborns should meanwhile receive the hepatitis B vaccine's birth dose, while at least 95 per cent of children should complete the vaccine's three-dose schedule.

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Finally, India is witnessing a reduction in prevalence rates of Hepatitis B. The rates for Hepatitis C are still high, though largely due to increase in IVDU in northern and eastern states.

The greatest number of Canadians with hepatitis C are those born between 1945 and 1975, which makes it critically important for those in this age group to understand their increased risk, and for all adults born in this age bracket to be tested.

PHE strongly encourages anyone who may have been at risk of HCV to get tested, whether or not they have any symptoms.

They made the call in separate messages on the eve of the World Hepatitis Day 2018 to be observed in the country tomorrow as elsewhere in the world aiming at enhancing awareness about the deadly virus.

"Eliminating hepatitis will require ongoing innovation, better medicines, and improved health services", said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO Director for HIV and Hepatitis.

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