ECDC warns hepatitis underreported, underdiagnosed in Europe

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Friday that viral hepatitis in Europe is both underdiagnosed and underreported.

The announcement, made before World Hepatitis Day on July 28, said that hepatitis could lead to other conditions, according to an ECDC press release.

"Viral hepatitis is preventable, but left untreated, chronic infection with hepatitis B and C for example may progress to liver cirrhosis or cancer," ECDC Director Marc Sprenger said.

Data tracking hepatitis in 2012 showed that hepatitis C was reported approximately twice as much as hepatitis B. Between 2006 and 2012, more than 206,000 hepatitis C and 110,000 cases of hepatitis B infections were recorded.

An ECDC report also revealed that while the number of acute cases of hepatitis B declined over that period, the rates of chronic cases doubled to 8.6 per 100,000 people by 2012.

"All these numbers have to be understood as an underestimate of the true situation because of underreporting and the fact that many acute infections are asymptomatic and thus often not diagnosed," Sprenger said. "This means that the problem is more serious than we thought and we need to strengthen existing prevention and control programs to reverse these trends. There is still a lot we can do to help stop the silent disease."