Tuesday February 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 Makes Progress In Controlling Ebola In Congo

In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated.

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Ebola, COngo
Health workers treat an unconfirmed Ebola patient inside a MSF (Doctors Without Borders)-supported Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) in Butembo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nov. 3, 2018. VOA

Six months after the outbreak of Ebola was declared in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province, the World Health Organization is expressing cautious optimism that it is making headway in controlling the spread of the deadly virus.

Latest figures reported by the WHO show 752 cases of Ebola, including 465 deaths.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, says progress in containing the spread of the virus is due to a number of public health measures, including the training of health workers on infection prevention and control, closer engagement with communities, case investigation and contact tracing.

Ebola
Medical staff are sterilized before entering the isolation unit at a hospital in Bundibugyo, western Uganda, on Aug. 17, 2018, where there is one suspected case of Ebola. VOA

She says the use of a vaccine and promising new drugs have been a boon to these efforts.

“I feel optimistic,” Moeti said. “I am very clear that we need to continue this work. We need to make sure that in the places where we have made progress, we build on this progress and we do not go back. And, we are being very, very conscious of the fact that we need to invest to improve the preparedness both in the DRC areas that are highest at risk and, most importantly, in the surrounding countries that are at risk.”

Ebola, mother
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) workers talk to a worker at an isolation facility, prepared to receive suspected Ebola cases, at the Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, May 20, 2018. VOA

The risk of the virus spreading to countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan is very high because of the heavy cross-border traffic among the countries, Moeti said. However, she added, surveillance and preparedness activities have been enhanced on both sides of the border.

Also Read: WHO Calls for Accelerated Action To Eliminate Cervical Cancer

She says there is extensive monitoring at border crossings and improvements have been made in screening people for the virus. In addition, 2,600 health care workers in Uganda have been vaccinated. Moeti said a similar vaccination campaign began two days ago in South Sudan. (VOA)