A recent study has identified viral hepatitis as the seventh leading cause of death and disability in the world, killing more people in a year than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.
Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and it is caused by a group of viruses.
The study was released by the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013 and published in the Lancet, the world’s leading general medical journal.
Based on data collected in 183 countries, the study found that deaths from infection, liver disease and cancer caused by viral hepatitis increased
by nearly two thirds, from 890,000 in 1990 to 1.45 million in 2013.
In comparison, there were 1.3 million deaths from AIDS, 1.4 million from tuberculosis and 855,000 from malaria in 2013.
The study noted that “in 2013, viral hepatitis was the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, compared with tenth to 12th in 1990.
“Unlike most communicable diseases, the absolute burden and relative rank of viral hepatitis increased between 1990 and 2013.
“The enormous health loss attributable to viral hepatitis and the availability of effective vaccines and treatments suggest an important opportunity to
improve public health,’’ the study said.
Dr Graham Cooke, Senior Author, said in a statement that “this is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the global burden of viral hepatitis.
“The study also reveals startling findings showing the death toll from this condition now at 1.45 million, while deaths from diseases such as TB
and malaria dropped since 1990.”
Cooke, a researcher at Imperial College London’s Department of Medicine said the report observed that nearly all of the deaths and disability
came from hepatitis B and C, both of which transmitted via exposure to contaminated blood and often caused chronic liver problems.
However, improved global trends in sanitation continued to reduce the burden caused by the foodborne and shorter-lived Hepatitis A and E; Hepatitis D only caused harm in someone who already had B.
The report stated that less than five per cent of people living with viral hepatitis worldwide were aware of their condition, largely due to the disease being
mostly asymptomatic and the lack of routine screening.
According to the report, the small proportion of global health funding targeted at viral hepatitis is also disproportionate to its importance as a major cause of death and disability.
The report consequently called for a change in funding structures to allow effective responses in low-income and lower-middle-income countries.