Viral hepatitis ‘kills as many as Aids or TB’
Viral hepatitis is one of the leading killers across the globe, with a death toll that matches Aids or tuberculosis, research in the Lancet suggests. The report estimates that hepatitis infections and their complications led to 1.45m deaths in 2013 – despite the existence of vaccines and treatments. World Health Organization data shows there were 1.2m Aids-related deaths in 2014, while TB led to 1.5m deaths. The WHO has put forward a global strategy to tackle hepatitis. Researchers say these plans must be put into action urgently to tackle the crisis
Viral hepatitis refers to five different forms of virus (known as A, B, C, D, E) – some can be spread through contact with infected bodily fluids and others (A and E) through contaminated food or water. Most deaths worldwide are due to B and C, which can cause serious liver damage and predispose people to liver cancer. But because people don’t always feel the symptoms of the initial infection, they can be unaware of the long-term damage until it is too late. The WHO says countries and organisations need to expand vaccination programmes, focus on preventing mother-to-child transmission of hepatitis B and increase access to treatment for hepatitis B and C, to help ensure these targets are met.