Viral Hepatitis B and C are major health challenges internationally

“Test. Treat. Hepatitis,” was the theme for World Hepatitis Day 2018. The Collective Prevention Services (CPS) profiles developments related to public health as part of its annual calendar of health observances as a way to inform the Sint Maarten community about trends in global health care.

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 325 million people worldwide.

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.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), viral hepatitis B and C are major health challenges, affecting 325 million people globally. They are root causes of liver cancer, leading to 1.34 million deaths every year that may not show symptoms for a long period, sometimes years or decades.

At least 60% of liver cancer cases are due to late testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C. Low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed in order to achieve the global elimination goals by 2030 according to the WHO.

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.

Timely testing and treatment of viral hepatitis B and C can save lives. Eliminate Hepatitis.