Geneva – The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday called for urgent action to expand hepatitis treatment, as only a small fraction of the 325 million people who live with hepatitis “B
' and ``C“ know they are ill.
The WHO demanded for action to fight the liver disease.
The UN agency said an estimated 1.3 million people died from the virus in 2015, more than from illnesses caused by HIV.
“We see an increasing mortality,” said Gottfried Hirnschall, who heads the agency’s hepatitis programme.
The WHO said better access to vaccines and medicines is needed, as well as policies to reduce infections among people who inject drugs.
The agency presented a report on the regional spread of hepatitis “B” and “C“, two types of the virus that cause nearly all hepatitis deaths around the world.
The East Asia and Oceania region has the highest hepatitis “B“ rates, followed by Africa.
Only nine per cent who have this virus type know they are infected, and only eight per cent who get a diagnosis receive treatment.
The share of diagnoses and treatments for hepatitis“ C“ infections are also very low.
The Middle East has the highest hepatitis“ C“ rates, due to lacking hygiene. Europe, where the virus is mainly spread among drug users, comes second.
Hepatitis is spread through blood and other body fluids.
It can cause lethal liver damage and cancer decades after the infection.
Although hepatitis deaths linked to long-term cases have been rising, new infections have fallen over the past decade, as more and more countries immunised children against hepatitis “B”.