Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department within the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, calls on the nation to eliminate hepatitis, a viral infection that affects 400 million people worldwide, over 10 times the number of people infected with HIV.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. The condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or liver cancer. Hepatitis viruses are the most common cause of hepatitis in the world but other infections, toxic substances (e.g. alcohol, certain drugs), and autoimmune diseases can also cause hepatitis.
There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. These five types are of greatest concern because of the burden of illness and death they cause and the potential for outbreaks and epidemic spread. In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer.
World Hepatitis Day 2017 is being commemorated on Friday, July 28 under the theme “Eliminate Hepatitis,” to mobilize intensified action towards the health targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In 2016, the World Health Assembly endorsed World Health Organization’s (WHO) first global health sectors strategy on viral hepatitis to help countries scale up their responses.
CPS profiles developments related to public health as part of its annual calendar of health observances as a way to inform the St. Maarten community about trends in global health care.
New WHO data from 28 countries – representing approximately 70% of the global hepatitis burden – indicate that efforts to eliminate hepatitis are gaining momentum.
This week, WHO has also added a new generic treatment to its list of WHO-prequalified hepatitis C medicines to increase access to therapy, and is promoting prevention through injection safety: a key factor in reducing hepatitis B and C transmission.
Globally, about 1.4 million people die each year from hepatitis. It is estimated that only five per cent of people with chronic hepatitis know of their infection and less than one per cent have access to treatment.
Hepatitis can be fully prevented and treated: there are effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B, and new hepatitis C treatment can cure in more than 95% of cases.
The WHO vision of eliminating hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030 can be achieved with greater access to prevention and treatment for those affected. Eliminate Hepatitis.
Meanwhile, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is calling for an “organized” Caribbean response to prevent, detect and treat hepatitis, as the first report on the viral disease reveals the enormous scale of the silent epidemic in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
“Hepatitis is a silent epidemic because people who have the infections do not have symptoms until there is damage to the liver, and because the burden of the disease has not been fully recognized,” said Massimo Ghidinelli, chief of PAHO’s HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and Sexually Transmitted Infections unit. “Informing people about these diseases and ways to prevent them is crucial.
PAHO said Hepatitis B and C are estimated to cause about 125,000 deaths each year, more deaths than tuberculosis and HIV infection combined. The report shows that, of the 7.2 million people living with chronic hepatitis C in the region, only four per cent, or 300,000, receive treatment. In addition, an estimated 65,000 people are infected every year with hepatitis C, the report says.