WHO Report Reveals Alarming Rise in Viral Hepatitis Deaths Globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a concerning report highlighting viral hepatitis as the second leading infectious cause of death worldwide, resulting in 1.3 million fatalities annually, equivalent to tuberculosis, another prominent infectious killer.

Released during the 2024 World Hepatitis Summit in Lisbon, Portugal, under the theme “Integrate Accelerate Eliminate,” the report underscores the urgent need for coordinated efforts to address this escalating health crisis. Hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver caused by various infectious viruses and non-infectious agents, poses significant health risks, with different strains (types A, B, C, D, and E) varying in transmission modes, severity, and prevention methods.

The report identifies key regions bearing the brunt of hepatitis infections, with Africa shouldering 63% of new hepatitis B cases, and the Western Pacific Region accounting for 47% of hepatitis B-related deaths. Additionally, Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, and Viet Nam collectively carry two-thirds of the global hepatitis B and C burden.

Despite advancements in diagnosis and treatment tools, testing and treatment coverage rates have stagnated, with 254 million people living with hepatitis B and 50 million with hepatitis C in 2022. The report emphasizes the imperative of scaling up access to testing, diagnostics, and treatment to meet WHO’s elimination targets by 2030.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Terror Ghebreyesus, expressed concern over rising hepatitis-related deaths due to inadequate diagnosis and treatment. He reaffirmed WHO’s commitment to supporting countries in implementing comprehensive strategies to reverse this trend and save lives.

To accelerate hepatitis elimination, the report recommends expanding access to testing and diagnostics, strengthening primary care prevention efforts, simplifying service delivery, optimizing product regulation and supply, developing investment cases in priority countries, and mobilizing innovative financing.


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