The fight for viral hepatitis C elimination

Within Europe, the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and the European Region have the highest reported prevalence of HCV. [Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock]

The hepatitis C virus is a global public health threat with significant morbidity and mortality. Due to its asymptomatic nature, it is also a silent epidemic with an estimated 71 million infected globally, but only 20 % diagnosed.

According to figures published by the World Health Organisation, viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, a number comparable to deaths caused by tuberculosis and higher than those caused by HIV.

However, the number of deaths due to viral hepatitis is increasing over time, while mortality caused by tuberculosis and HIV is declining, the organisation underlined.

Most viral hepatitis deaths in 2015 were due to chronic liver disease (720 000 deaths due to cirrhosis) and primary liver cancer (470 000 deaths due to hepatocellular carcinoma). Globally, in 2015, an estimated 257 million people were living with chronic HBV infection, and 71 million people with chronic HCV infection.

Within Europe, the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region and the European Region have the highest reported prevalence of HCV.

The HCV Elimination Manifesto “Our vision for a Hepatitis C-free Europe” was launched 17 February 2016, and it provided a starting point for action to make HCV and its elimination in Europe an explicit public health priority.

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