World Hepatitis Day (WHD), marked on July 28 each year, aims to increase awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis, a potentially deadly virus that causes inflammation in the liver, and if left unchecked, can progress into liver cirrhosis and cancer. A recently launched global strategy
aims to eliminate hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) as a public health threat by 2030 through the combination of stronger surveillance techniques, increased testing, and more available treatment programs. The strategy is aiming for a 90% drop in the number of chronically infected individuals as well as reduce the current mortality rate by 65%, according to an article
by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Improved Surveillance Leads to Better Understanding of Hepatitis
According to Andrea Ammon, ECDC Acting Director, “…surveillance systems need to be improved because the current data sources in most countries of the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) are insufficient to adequately assess the actual burden of viral hepatitis.”
In an effort to improve current local surveillance systems, the ECDC is working closely with the Member States of EU/EEA to create and use other epidemiological methods such as seroprevalence and sentinel surveys. Through enhanced surveillance techniques
, viral hepatitis can be identified and treated earlier on.
Testing Can Lead to Early Treatment Opportunities
According to the ECDC, one of the steps needed to meet their goal is to identify “those who might be unknowingly infected with viral hepatitis … through more testing.”
Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, explains, “Viral hepatitis continues to pose a serious health challenge in the European Union. Further efforts are needed to prevent and combat this disease, which is sometimes called ‘the silent killer’ as symptoms do not often appear until it is too late…the Commission is investing over 1 million euros in a new project to support early diagnosis of viral hepatitis.”
The European HIV-Hepatitis Testing Week, now in its fourth year, will take place from November 18-25, 2016; this year will be the second time that hepatitis testing will be included. Individuals who are interested in being tested can find HIV and hepatitis testing centers in their area through the official website