India has second-most hepatitis B, C cases after China: WHO report

India registered 2.98 crore hepatitis B cases in 2022 while the number of hepatitis C infections stood at 55 lakh.

April 10, 2024 06:56 am | Updated 01:36 pm IST - Geneva

Image for representational purposes only.

Image for representational purposes only. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

India accounted for the second-highest number of cases of hepatitis B and C in 2022 after China, with 3.5 crore infections, according to a report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver that can cause a range of health problems and can be fatal.

According to the WHO’s 2024 Global Hepatitis Report released on Tuesday, 254 million people lived with hepatitis B and 50 million with hepatitis C in 2022 globally.

India, which was second only to China in the viral hepatitis burden, registered 2.98 crore hepatitis B cases in 2022 while the number of hepatitis C infections stood at 55 lakh.

China registered 8.3 crore cases of hepatitis B and C, representing 27.5% of the total disease burden.

The report said that with a total of 3.5 crore cases, India accounted for 11.6% of the total disease burden globally that year.

There are five main strains of the hepatitis virus, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. While they all cause liver disease, they differ in important ways including modes of transmission, severity of the illness, geographical distribution and prevention methods.

In particular, types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and together are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis, liver cancer and viral hepatitis-related deaths.

The WHO on Tuesday flagged that the number of lives lost due to viral hepatitis is increasing with the disease being the second leading infectious cause of death globally (with 1.3 million deaths per year) the same as tuberculosis.

The WHO report said new data from 187 countries show that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, 83% were caused by hepatitis B, and 17% by hepatitis C.

“Every day, there are 3,500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections,” the report released at the World Hepatitis Summit said.

“This report paints a troubling picture: despite progress globally in preventing hepatitis infections, deaths are rising because far too few people with hepatitis are being diagnosed and treated,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“WHO is committed to supporting countries to use all the tools at their disposal - at access prices - to save lives and turn this trend around.” According to the report, half the burden of chronic hepatitis B and C infections is among people 30–54 years old, with 12% among children under 18 years of age. Men account for 58% of all cases.

Apart from talking about global progress and gaps in diagnosis and treatment, the WHO 2024 Global Hepatitis Report also pointed out disparities in pricing and service delivery, and said, funding remains a challenge.

The report outlined a series of actions to advance a public health approach to viral hepatitis, designed to accelerate progress towards ending the epidemic by 2030.

These include: expanding access to testing and diagnostics; shifting from policies to implementation for equitable treatment; strengthening primary care prevention efforts; using improved data for action; and engaging affected communities and civil society among others.

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