WHO measures to combat viral hepatitis
On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) outlined the global strategy for eliminating hepatitis, among other things, in favor of vaccinating all newborns against hepatitis B. Action is urgently needed to curb the spread of hepatitis.
The WHO's first global health strategy for eliminating viral hepatitis by 2021 was launched last year, but the results have so far been limited. On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day, the WHO is therefore committed to the timely implementation of various measures. For example, all newborn babies worldwide should be vaccinated against hepatitis B.
Over 1.3 million hepatitis deaths each year
According to the WHO, viral hepatitis is one of the biggest global health problems. In 2015, an estimated 257 million people had hepatitis B infection and 71 million people had hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in the same year, which is comparable to the number of tuberculosis deaths, for example. In addition, the number of hepatitis deaths is increasing.
70 percent of infections in 28 countries
According to the WHO, around 50 percent of chronic hepatitis diseases can be traced to just eleven countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda and Vietnam. If Cambodia, Cameroon, Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Thailand, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Zimbabwe are included as a further 17 countries, 70 percent of tuberculosis cases are in these States. According to the WHO, there is considerable need for action in these 28 most affected countries.
Vaccination for newborns
In Germany, hepatitis B vaccination for infants has been recommended by the Robert Koch Institute's (RKI) Standing Vaccination Committee (STIKO) since 1995 and is part of the protective vaccination that takes place at the age of two months. In certain risk cases, vaccination is also carried out immediately after birth. In the countries most affected by hepatitis, however, such vaccinations have so far only been insufficiently implemented. At the same time, infected people, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, have little access to routine diagnostic tests and appropriate treatment, the WHO reports.
Few sufferers receive treatment
By the end of 2015, only nine percent of people with a hepatitis B infection and 20 percent of those infected with hepatitis C had been tested and diagnosed, according to the WHO, but most have no idea of their illness. Of the patients diagnosed with hepatitis B, eight percent (or 1.7 million people) were treated for their disease, and in the case of hepatitis C seven percent (or 1.1 million people). The goal is to ensure by 2030 that 90 percent of people with hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections will be tested and that at least 80 percent will receive appropriate treatment.
1.75 new hepatitis C infections
Most of the new infections are due to hepatitis C infections, reports the WHO. In 2015, a total of around 1.75 million adults were newly infected with hepatitis C, many of them drug users who were infected with the pathogen through contaminated injections. According to the RKI, 4,368 hepatitis C infections occurred in Germany in 2016 (compared to hepatitis B infections: 3,005 in 2016). Here, too, the most important route of transmission is intravenous drug use (80% of the cases).