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Viral Hepatitis: A Global Health Challenge

April 22, 2024

Recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveal a concerning global trend of increasing hepatitis infections and deaths. Hepatitis has become the second most common infectious cause of death globally among non-COVID communicable diseases, with viral hepatitis deaths rising to 1.3 million in 2022, up from 1.1 million in 2019. Of these, 83% were caused by hepatitis B and 17% by hepatitis C. Every day, there are 3500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections.


The burden of viral hepatitis is substantial, affecting a significant number of individuals globally. In 2022, an estimated 254 million people were living with hepatitis B, while 50 million were living with hepatitis C. Half of the burden falls on individuals aged 30-54 and men account for 58% of all cases.


The burden of viral hepatitis exhibits regional variations. The WHO African Region bears the highest burden of new hepatitis B infections, whereas the Western Pacific Region has the highest percentage of hepatitis B-related deaths. Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C.


Diagnosis and treatment coverage for viral hepatitis fall significantly below global targets. Only 13 percent of patients with chronic hepatitis B are diagnosed and only 3 percent receive antiviral treatment. Hepatitis C is diagnosed in 36% of cases and only 20% of patients receive treatment.


To address these challenges, immediate action is required. Efforts should focus on increasing awareness and prevention, expanding affordable testing and diagnostic services, improving treatment coverage, strengthening healthcare systems, addressing regional disparities and advocating for policy change. Collaboration between Governments, healthcare organizations and civil society are essential to effectively combat viral hepatitis and reduce its devastating impact globally.