News / Africa

New Report Highlights Need For Action against Viral Hepatitis

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
A new report on hepatitis by the the World Health Organization, WHO, highlights the need for countries to develop improved action plans to prevent the spread of the disease.

The report was launched ahead of World Hepatitis Day which is held every July 28.  The WHO said the survey includes results from 126 countries where actions are being prioritized to address the illness.

“Hepatitis is really a major global health issue.  It’s really under- appreciated.  It’s called the silent epidemic because you can become infected and have no symptoms for decades before developing cirrhosis or cancer,” explained  Dr. Stefan Wiktor, team leader on the WHO’s Global Hepatitis Programme.   The international health organization estimates that about 500-million people have chronic hepatitis B or C, and about 1.4 million of those infected die each year.

The researcher pointed out that there are five different types of the virus, which adds to its complexity.  However, he said there are two main ways to contract it.

“It’s either through contaminated water or food, that’s for hepatitis A and E.  The other hepatitis’ B, C and D, are through exposure to contaminated blood -- either through blood transfusions, through unsafe injections, either in a healthcare setting or among injecting drug users,” explained Wiktor.

He also said hepatitis can be transmitted from mother to child, and between sexual partners.

Dr. Wiktor explained that Hepatitis A and B can be prevented through vaccination, screening blood, and changing people’s behaviors. 

While most people that have hepatitis B or C do not know it, it is easy to diagnose through a simple blood test.

“Part of the reason that more people are not being tested is that neither healthcare workers, nor doctors, don’t always understand how serious of an issue it is,” said Wiktor, who also pointed out changes are occurring in how the disease is viewed.  For example, he explained that in the United States, a new policy recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 be tested for hepatitis C.

Other positive signs, said Wiktor, are new drugs to control hepatitis and even cure some forms of it, as  well as medicines on the horizon that will be easier to take, with a higher cure rate, especially for hepatitis C.

Wiktor pointed out that while hepatitis is a worldwide problem, certain regions are more affected than others. For example,  Africa and Asia experience high incidents of hepatitis B and C.  Egypt has the most people infected with hepatitis C – 10 percent of the population.  But, he notes the country has done what he calls tremendous work in scaling up hepatitis treatment programs.

Wiktor said he hopes with the release of the report; countries will get a better sense of how serious the problem of hepatitis is within their own borders.  Once they are aware of this, they will then need to gather their own data, which is vital for obtaining resources to treat the disease. Without the data, Wiktor emphasized, it would be hard to convince politicians and lawmakers to pay more attention to the problem, and plan comprehensive hepatitis control programs.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs