28 July 2016
The United Nations marks July 28 as World Hepatitis Day.
The inter-governmental, global institution marks the day annually in collaboration with the World Health Organisation.
It has “Elimination” as the theme for this year’s Hepatitis Day.
The day is set aside in honour of the birthday of the scientist who discovered the hepatitis B virus and its first vaccine.
Nobel Laureate Professor Baruch Samuel Blumberg, discovered hepatitis B virus 50 years ago and developed the first hepatitis B vaccine.
A staggering 95 per cent of people infected with hepatitis B or C around the world do not know they are infected. One reason for this is that people can live without symptoms for many years.
When they find out they have hepatitis, it is often too late for treatment to be fully effective.
As a result, liver damage becomes cirrhosis or liver cancer.
There are 10 million new hepatitis infection annually with less than 1 per cent of the infected seeking treatment.
The virus kills an estimated 1.4 million people annually.
To help countries build up national hepatitis testing and treatment programmes and to encourage more people to get tested globally, the World Health Organisation will release new testing guidelines for hepatitis B and C soon, the WHO said.
The World Hepatitis Alliance said in its declaration to mark the day that “every action is an action towards elimination of viral hepatitis
“This year sees the first ever World Health Organisation’s Global Strategy for Viral Hepatitis, which sets a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030.
“This will be the first time national governments sign up and commit to the goal of eliminating viral hepatitis.
“To mark this historic moment and to leverage this political commitment, we are using the theme of `elimination’ for World Hepatitis Day 2016, which can be easily adapted for local use; to achieve elimination, greater awareness, increased diagnosis and key interventions including universal vaccination, blood and injection safety, harm reduction and treatment are all needed.”