Thursday November 14, 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 Reports Progress in Containing Ebola Outbreak in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next, said Ryan.

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WHO, Ebola, Outbreak
The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo. VOA

The World Health Organization reports progress in containing the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, but says many challenges to its elimination remain.  WHO reports the number of cases in the outbreak now stands at 3,207, including 2,144 deaths.

The executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, Michael Ryan, says he is largely optimistic that aid workers are getting control of the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo.  But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over.

“It is not.  It is impossible to predict where the outbreak is going to go next,” said Ryan. “But… I do–I would stand over the fact that we have significantly contained the virus in a much smaller geographic area.  Now we have to kill the virus.  The problem is, it is back in areas that are deeply insecure.”

In fact, the virus has come full circle.  Ryan notes the disease has moved from Butembo and other urban areas to the remote, rural town of Mangina, the epicenter of the outbreak.  He says the virus is back where it began when the Ebola outbreak was declared August 1, 2018.

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But, he says, it is impossible to say the outbreak is over. Pixabay

“So, essentially the virus is back in the same zone,” said Ryan. “So, the factors that allowed that virus to transmit at low intensity for a number of months, have not changed.  Deep insecurity, reticence amongst the population, distrust and many other factors continue to make this a very dangerous situation.  But a situation, for which I believe we are making significant progress at this time.”

Ryan says WHO is increasing the scale of its operation, engaging in active surveillance across North Kivu province and actively seeking new cases and tracing contacts to keep the virus from spreading.

He says more than 230,000 people have been vaccinated against the deadly disease and more lives are being saved among people infected with the virus who are coming to the treatment centers.

He says the fatality rate among the nearly 800 patients currently in Ebola treatment units is less than one third – a significantly better outcome than the two-thirds fatality rate reported for the disease overall.

Also Read- One in Five People in Conflict-Affected Areas Live with Mental Health Condition

Still, this is the biggest Ebola outbreak in Africa since the epidemic across three West African countries in 2014 killed more than 11,000 people. (VOA)