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290 million people worldwide are unwittingly infected with viral hepatitis
Hepatitis infections are one of the most common causes of severe liver damage and since 2010, the World Health Organization has classified hepatitis viruses as one of the deadly global health threats. Every year on July 28th, health facilities point out the threat of hepatitis on World Hepatitis Day. However, the health risk is not very present in the public consciousness. So many sufferers do not know that they are infected.
"Hepatitis: Find the Missing Millions" is this year's motto for World Hepatitis Day. This relates to the claim to find those undiscovered patients who are infected without their knowledge. Most sufferers have no symptoms for a long time, so they do not become aware of their illness. The first symptoms set in, "however, the ideal time for therapy is often over," emphasizes Professor Thomas Berg from the University Hospital Leipzig (UKL) in a current press release.
325 million infected worldwide
According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 325 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hepatitis B or C. However, the majority of those affected are not aware of the disease, since it usually does not cause symptoms for a long time. Around 290 million sufferers have no idea of their infection, reports the UKL, citing Deutsche Leberhilfe, the organizer of World Hepatitis Day. According to estimates, there are also around 150,000 undiscovered people in this country, with around 5,000 newly discovered hepatitis cases reported each year.
Inadequate diagnosis and therapy rate
Appropriate screening methods can be used to detect infection with hepatitis viruses well and hepatitis C infections are practically always curable. Chronic hepatitis B infection is also easy to control, but has rarely been curable. "But especially in comparison to other infectious diseases such as HIV, malaria or tuberculosis, diagnosis and therapy rates are lower worldwide," criticized Professor Berg.
Infections are often not discovered
There are very good screening methods and very effective therapies and the earlier you start, the better, emphasizes the liver expert from Leipzig University Hospital. The WHO has undertaken to reduce the incidence of hepatitis C infections by 90 percent by 2030. But it is still unclear in this country how these goals should be achieved. "Although all patients have easy access to therapy here, there is still no concept for screening and referrals to the treating specialist," says Professor Berg. It is unfortunate that no liver examinations are carried out during the normal health examinations in Germany, so that possible hepatitis infections cannot be detected.
Good therapeutic options with appropriate diagnosis
The infections are definitely treatable nowadays. For hepatitis C, there is a simple, low-side effects tablet-based therapy that only lasts a few weeks, and hepatitis B is now also very easy to treat, but so far mostly only with long-term therapy. However, short-term therapies are already being developed here. So far, the best protection against hepatitis B remains vaccination. Nevertheless, it is necessary to detect existing infections at an early stage.
Sources of infection should be eliminated
According to Professor Berg, population screening is already being considered in other countries, or at least screening for certain risk or age groups, says Professor Berg. But it is assumed in this country that a screening of the general population does not pay off in the case of a proportion of infected people of around 0.5 percent of the total population. ”The goal must be to dry out the sources of infection, however, since the viruses are only transmitted from person to person.
Risk groups must be reached
Above all, the viruses are exacerbated by risk groups, such as people with intravenous drug use, and these people have to be reached to interrupt the infection chains, Professor Berg emphasizes. In addition to health programs, this also requires political will. (fp)
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Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters
- University Hospital Leipzig: Millions of people worldwide are infected with viral hepatitis and do not know it (access: 25.07.2019), UKL