Friday April 19, 2019

‘Coordinated action needed to curb hepatitis’

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for coordinated action to detect, control and treat hepatitis in the wake of 1.5 million deaths occurring every year due to hepatitis, including by liver cancer and cirrhosis.

Nearly one-third of the global hepatitis deaths – 500,000 – occur in the WHO South-East Asia Region (SEAR).

Globally, viral hepatitis (a liver inflammation) kills 4,000 people every day.

“Each one of these numbers carry a potential story of suffering, pain, lost livelihoods, missed opportunities, social, psychological and economic costs,” said Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

India alone has 40 million people living with chronic hepatitis B infection. Sixty percent of the people living with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis.

“These infections, diseases, deaths and associated hardships for individuals, families, societies and economies can and must be prevented,” she added.

“Governments need to ensure adequate and equitable access to hepatitis prevention and control measures,” she said.

“However, the responsibility also lies with individuals. Nearly 65 percent of the people living with chronic hepatitis B and 75 percent of those with chronic hepatitis C are unaware that they are infected. We are living with this risk and unless we act now, it can be catastrophic,” she noted.

Health promotion initiatives need to be strengthened and people should be made aware of how they risk getting hepatitis and what they need to do to protect themselves and their families from the hepatitis viruses.

“There is need for awareness among health administrators, policymakers, and medical professionals,” she said.

“The health sector needs to strengthen disease surveillance systems, ensure injection and patient safety, reliably and systematically screen all blood products, ensure strict adherence to the new WHO injection safety guidelines and improve infant vaccination rates including birth dose of hepatitis B within first 24 hours of delivery,” she added.

Pointing out that this year’s theme for World Hepatitis Day on July 28 is “Prevent hepatitis. Act now”, Singh said: “The global focus this year will be on preventing hepatitis B and C. With effective vaccine and treatment, as well as a better understanding of how we can prevent hepatitis, we can aim to eliminate these diseases and save lives,” Poonam Khetrapal Singh said.

(With inputs from IANS)

Next Story

WHO Calls for Better Vaccination Coverage Against Increasing Number of Measles Cases

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe

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Steve Sierzega receives a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Pomona, N.Y., March 27, 2019. VOA

The number of measles cases worldwide nearly quadrupled in the first three months of the year compared to last year, the World Health Organization reported Monday.

The United Nations agency, citing preliminary data, said that more than 112,000 cases of the preventable but highly contagious disease have been reported across the globe in the January-to-March period. WHO called for better vaccination coverage against measles, which can kill or leave a child disabled for life.

Over recent months, WHO said spikes in the disease have occurred “in countries with high overall vaccination coverage, including the United States … as well as Israel, Thailand, and Tunisia, as the disease has spread fast among clusters of unvaccinated people.”

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Public health authorities worry about outbreaks in communities where vaccination rates are low, fueled by a growing movement of people who view the MMR vaccine, mumps and rubella as dangerous. VOA

“While this data is provisional and not yet complete, it indicates a clear trend,” WHO said. “Many countries are in the midst of sizeable measles outbreaks, with all regions of the world experiencing sustained rises in cases.”

The agency said the reported number of cases often lags behind the number of actual cases, meaning that the number of documented cases likely does not reflect the actual severity of the measles outbreaks.

For three weeks in a row, U.S. health authorities have added dozens of new reports of measles to its yearly total, now at 555, the biggest figure in five years. Twenty of the 50 U.S. states have now reported measles cases.

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FILE – 15-month-old August Goepferd received mumps and rubella booster shot at a clinic at Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. VOA

ALSO READ: New York Takes Drastic Steps to Prevent Spread of Measles Outbreak

More than half of the U.S. total — 285 cases — have been reported in New York City. Officials in the country’s largest city last week ordered mandatory measles vaccinations to halt the outbreak that has been concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in the city’s Brooklyn borough.

City health department officials blamed anti-vaccine propagandists for distributing misinformation in the community. (VOA)