Action needed to treat millions infected with viral hepatitis

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An estimated 130 million people in the Western Pacific region have chronic hepatitis B and C, which can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death.

Every year on 28 July, the world comes together to commemorate World Hepatitis Day (WHD).

Viral hepatitis was included as a focus area in the health related goal - Goal 3.3 - with world leaders pledging to fight and eliminate it by 2030.

The minister identified the adequate treatment of Hepatitis B and C as a way out in preventing the development of major life- threatening chronic liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer.

According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, about 500 million people are now infected with chronic hepatitis B or C and 1 in 3 people have been exposed to one or both viruses.

According to him, the national prevalence rate of hepatitis B is 11 per cent, in Nasarawa State it is 13 to 20 per cent, while hepatitis C is 2.2 per cent for national and eight to 13.5 per cent in Nasarawa State and this is hospital based report.

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Hepatitis C is curable and hepatitis B is treatable but without finding the missing millions needless deaths will continue. The new, direct-acting antiviral treatments first became available in the United Kingdom to patients with fibrosis or cirrhosis (hardening and advanced liver damage) in 2015. About one-third of all hepatitis cases come from unknown or unidentifiable sources.

Dr Kapoor advises, "Please remember that these infections are very easy to treat at the early stages of the liver disease but once you develop a chronic scarring in the liver, the infections become more hard to handle and the treatment also becomes much, much longer".

"It also allows viral hepatitis to spread".

He shared that within Pakistan nearly 12 million people are suffering from Hepatitis B or C. Each year brings about 150,000 new cases. "Both of them have some relationship because they are usually transmitted through blood and other body fluids", said Dr Enang. Hepatitis is a disease that is common and widespread in India.

She was relieved to discover that testing and treatment are covered by the health insurance system in Mongolia, now a world leader in combating a high hepatitis burden. Men who have sex with men can become hepatitis C positive, due to the greater potential for blood-to-blood contact during sex. World Hepatitis Day was launched in 2008 in response to the concern that chronic viral hepatitis did not have the level of awareness, nor the political momentum, seen with other communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria. This lack of awareness and proper treatment is same in the region as well as the world across, the WHO said in a statement. About 16 per cent of untreated acute hepatitis covers latent or chronic hepatitis B, and the risk is much higher in children. "Our new recommendations should pave the way for everybody with hepatitis C to access testing and curative treatment now".

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