WHO: Unsafe Injections Major Cause of Hepatitis Death

Friday, July 24, 2015

In advance of World Hepatitis Day (July 28), the World Health Organization is calling for urgent action to curb millions of infections and deaths from viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis is a viral infection that attacks the liver and can cause acute and chronic disease. It is often called a silent epidemic because the harm it causes tends to be overlooked.

But WHO notes hepatitis is the seventh leading cause of death. It estimates 240 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and up to 150 million are infected with the hepatitis C virus. Together, hepatitis B and C account for about 1.5 million deaths every year.

Preventing infection

WHO Global Hepatitis Program team leader Stefan Wiktor says all the tools needed to prevent the infection and deaths are available. He says there is a great vaccine for hepatitis B, good laboratory tests that can screen out infection in the blood supply, and safe injection equipment.

“To prevent death there is treatment,” he said. “There is hepatitis treatment for hepatitis B, which can control the disease or suppress the virus, not cure it. Whereas, for hepatitis C. there is now drugs that can cure almost everybody with hepatitis C. That has been the most dramatic development in the last few years, that these new drugs that really transform how we think about hepatitis and it is leading people to start talking about elimination. Elimination of hepatitis as a public health problem in the future.”

Source: Voice of America (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases, public health