World Hepatitis Day: Let’s Join forces against 2nd major killer infectious disease

It’s World Hepatitis Day!

Today is World Hepatitis Day. This year, the United Nation’s Health Agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), is urging the world to Invest in Eliminating Hepatitis.

Viral hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver. Hepatitis though, simply means inflammation of the liver. Sometimes, the infection can be self-limiting.

The liver is a important organ that processes nutrients, cleanses the blood, and help the body battle infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged, its normal function can be derailed.

Other causes of hepatitis include heavy use of alcohol, exposure to toxins, some medications, and certain medical conditions, like autoimmune diseases.

However, the commonest causes of hepatitis are hepatitis viruses – A, B, C, D and E. You can read more about hepatitis on Centre for Disease Control website.

As the world focuses on hepatitis today, below are some facts that are undeniable from WHO:

  • Viral hepatitis B and C affect 325 million people worldwide causing 1.4 million deaths a year.
  • It is the second major killer infectious disease after tuberculosis, and 9 times more people are infected with hepatitis than HIV. 
  • Hepatitis is preventable, treatable, and in the case of hepatitis C, curable. 
  • However, over 80% of people living with hepatitis are lacking prevention, testing and treatment services. 

WHO is asking the public to note the following:

  • Are you at risk? Get tested! Early testing means early treatment to prevent illness and to save your life.
  • Are you protected? Hepatitis B and C are preventable. Every injection should be safe. Hepatitis B vaccine provides lifelong protection. Hepatitis B and C can be transmitted by sex, therefore protect yourself by using condoms.
  • Be strong: get treated or cured from hepatitis. If you tested positive, ask whether you need treatment – do not delay.
  • Living with hepatitis B? Some people will need treatment and can stay healthy with life-long therapy.
  • Living with hepatitis C? 3-month treatment can cure the infection.

Also for this year campaign, the global health body (WHO), aims to address the following objectives for World Hepatitis Day 2019 among policy makers:

  • To urge national and regional policymakers increase political and financial commitments for hepatitis response.
  • To highlight WHO’s new costing estimates for hepatitis elimination within the context of health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.
  • To encourage people come forward to access hepatitis prevention, testing and treatment services.

Incidentally, treatment of hepatitis has been costed for universal health coverage.

The latest study published in Lancet Global Health, estimated that investing US$6bn annually in 67 low- and middle-income countries would avert 4.5 million premature deaths by 2030, and more than 26 million deaths beyond the target date for the elimination of the disease.

The authors write:

“As a suggestion of the good value of hepatitis interventions, the authors note that a relatively small (1·5%) additional investment in viral hepatitis programmes can yield a relatively large return in health benefits (averting 4·5% premature deaths and providing 9·6% more healthy life-years by 2030).”

Excerpts from Lancet Global Health on pricing viral hepatitis as part of Universal Health Coverage.

The host country for World Hepatitis Day 2019 is Pakistan. The global events will be held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 27-28 July 2019.

At EssaysinHealth, we join WHO in urging government at all levels and partners to “Invest in eliminating hepatitis.”

Happy celebrations!

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona

Samuel Abiona is a medical doctor by training and a writer by passion. Samuel holds a postgraduate degree in Public Health. He believes that communicating medical knowledge goes beyond writing technical reviews. Samuel thus uses his expertise in public health and health systems research to transmit technical information for both academic and general audience. Please email to contact this author directly or use the contact page and your information will be passed on to him.