WHO releases global report on viral hepatitis

The World Health Organisation (WHO) released its first global report on hepatitis this month, calling for countries to work together to tackle viral hepatitis.

The report laid out for the first time a picture of viral hepatitis around the world, with WHO estimating that viral hepatitis was responsible for 1.34 million deaths in 2015.

The report focuses on hepatitis B and C, which are responsible for 96% of all hepatitis morality, and puts the number of people chronically infected with hepatitis B or C at 325 million worldwide.

"Viral hepatitis is now a major public health challenge that requires an urgent response," said WHO Director General Margaret Chan.

The report highlights how failure to diagnose hepatitis infections - just 9% of hepatitis B infections and 20% of hepatitis C infections were diagnosed in 2015 - coupled with lack of access to affordable treatments, is resulting in millions of people facing chronic liver disease, cancer and death. 

As well as detailing hepatitis prevalence, the report outlines some successful steps countries are taking to tackle hepatitis that could be replicated elsewhere. In Egypt, for example, market-price competition has reduced the cost of a three-month cure for hepatitis C from $900 in 2015 to less than $200 in 2016.

Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “We welcome this report, which provides a clear picture of the current state of viral hepatitis around the world. The work of the WHO is vital to the treatment and elimination of hepatitis as a public health issue. This report shows that elimination is possible, although much more needs to be done to achieve this goal.  

The report can be read here.