U.N. calls for greater efforts to fight hepatitis

In anticipation of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, the U.N. asked on Wednesday for greater measures to be taken to fight one of the world's silent killers, hepatitis.

A recent survey by the World Health Organization showed that many countries lack the national strategies needed to fight hepatitis. The survey showed that only 37 percent of countries have these national strategies, which makes hepatitis harder to combat.

Hepatitis B and C are considered silent killers because of the lack of symptoms the patient showed before severe damage to the liver arises. Both types of hepatitis are spread from infected bodily fluids, making it difficult to pinpoint where the infection originally occurred.

"The fact that many hepatitis B and C infections are silent, causing no symptoms until there is severe damage to the liver, points to the urgent need for universal access to immunization, screening, diagnosis and antiviral therapy," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, U.N. World Health Organization assistant director-general for Health Security and the Environment, said.

New guidelines and screening methods for hepatitis C are currently being developed by the WHO. Along with these new methods, the WHO has been looking into ways to fund agencies that would allow hepatitis to be included into their current screening programs.

"Many of the measures needed to prevent the spread of viral hepatitis disease can be put in place right now, and doing so will offset the heavy economic costs of treating and hospitalizing patients in future," Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of pandemic and epidemic Diseases at WHO, said.