Viral Hepatitis Claims 3,500 Lives Daily

The World Health Organization revealed in a report released on Tuesday that viral hepatitis continues to claim 3,500 lives daily, a figure on the rise, urging for “swift action.”

According to Agence France-Presse, new data from 187 countries shows that the estimated number of deaths due to viral hepatitis has risen from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022, according to this report issued at the global summit on hepatitis.

Mieke Dockerty, director of the HIV, hepatitis, and sexually transmitted infections department at WHO, said these are “alarming trends.”

On average, 3,500 people die each day worldwide from hepatitis infection: 83% due to hepatitis B and 17% due to hepatitis C.

WHO’s latest estimates indicate that 254 million people were infected with hepatitis B and another 50 million with hepatitis C in 2022.

Globally, only 3% of individuals with chronic hepatitis B have received antiviral treatment by the end of 2022.

For hepatitis C, 20% have received treatment. Mieke Dockerty emphasized that these “results are still far from the global targets of treating 80% of people with chronic viral hepatitis B and C by 2030.”

However, the latest data shows a slight improvement compared to the numbers from 2019.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated in a press release that “despite progress made worldwide in prevention (…), the number of deaths continues to increase as only a very limited number of people with hepatitis are diagnosed and treated.”

Africa accounts for 63% of new infections with hepatitis B virus, but only 18% of newborns in the region receive a dose of hepatitis B vaccine at birth.

Despite the availability of affordable generic drugs against viral hepatitis, many countries are unable to obtain them, according to WHO, which calls for “swift measures” to reverse this trend, such as expanding access and diagnostic testing.

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