Death toll rising despite falling infections

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), far too few hepatitis cases are diagnosed and treated worldwide. As a result, the number of people who died from viral hepatitis rose from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. 83 percent of deaths were due to hepatitis B, and 17 percent to hepatitis C.

There are five different types of hepatitis caused by different viruses, from A to E. Hepatitis B and C, which are among the main causes of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer and to which the WHO report mainly refers, are particularly dangerous.

The WHO recorded a slight decline in new hepatitis infections, from 2.5 million in 2019 to 2.2 million in 2022, indicating that vaccination campaigns and other preventive measures are having an effect. Nevertheless, 6,000 people are still infected every day, the organization emphasized.

Medication is too expensive
Only 13 percent of all people with chronic hepatitis B were diagnosed with the disease at the end of 2022, and only three percent had access to antiviral therapy. Around a third of cases of hepatitis C were diagnosed, and around a fifth of those affected were receiving treatment. The WHO criticized the fact that many countries were still purchasing hepatitis medication at too high a price, even though cheaper generics were available on the market. In addition, the state does not finance tests and treatments in many places, but patients must pay for them.

Hepatitis B and C mainly affect populations in Africa and Asia. According to the WHO, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, and Vietnam account for two-thirds of new infections worldwide. The viral hepatitis pathogens are transmitted partly through contaminated food (A and E) and blood and sexual contact (B and C).

  • source:science.ORF.at/Agencies/picture: Bild von BC Y auf Pixabay

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