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Liver Diseases | Two Billion People Infected With Hepatitis B

WASHINGTON, DC, USA – As many as two billion people worldwide are infected with hepatitis B — one of five types of the hepatitis virus – and more than 350 million suffer a chronic form of the disease.

Yet, public awareness is low, and much more public health action is needed to prevent and control viral hepatitis, said experts yesterday at the Pan American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) in observance of World Hepatitis Day.

The hepatitis group of viruses – types A, B, C, D and E – cause acute and chronic infection and inflammation of the liver, and are a major public health problem globally. An estimated 500,000 to 700,000 people die annually as a result of hepatitis B virus infection. Some 130-170 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus, and some 35,000 people die from related liver diseases each year. An estimated 57 per cent of cases of liver cirrhosis and 78 per cent of cases of primary liver cancer result from infection with hepatitis B or C virus.


In the Americas, more than 380,000 potential blood donors were deferred from donating due to the presence of risks for hepatitis B, C or HIV in 2009. Yet, despite this initial screening, more than 75,000 blood donor donations were found to be infected with hepatitis B or C viruses. According to available data, between seven million and nine million people may be infected with hepatitis C in Latin America alone.

The World Health Assembly in 2010 designated World Hepatitis Day as an official WHO health day to call attention to the growing threat of this disease and called on countries to improve awareness, surveillance, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis.

“Today, on World Hepatitis Day, we join WHO and the World Hepatitis Alliance in calling attention to the enormous toll of viral hepatitis,” said Dr Mirta Roses, PAHO’s director. “We hope that together we can stir a sense of urgency and commitment across all levels of society, from the health system to the communities they serve.”

Viral hepatitis can be prevented through the use of vaccines, and PAHO/WHO recommends the inclusion of hepatitis B vaccine in all


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