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India among top 10 countries with two-thirds of hepatitis B & C burden: WHO

IANS Apr 10, 2024

India is among the top 10 countries of the world that represent nearly two-thirds of the burden of hepatitis B and C combined, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2024 Global Hepatitis Report released on 10 April.

The 10 countries are China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Philippines and the Russian Federation.

Of these three countries -- China, India, and Indonesia -- represented 50 per cent of the global burden in 2022 for hepatitis B. These were followed by Nigeria, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines and Pakistan.

The data from 187 countries released at the World Hepatitis Summit, showed that six countries -- China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, and the US -- represented 50 per cent of the global burden for hepatitis C. These were followed by Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Mexico, Brazil, and Malaysia.

“Progress in these countries is critical to the global response,” the report said.

Further, the report noted that viral hepatitis infections are rising globally and claim about 3,500 lives each day, translating to about 1.3 million deaths per year. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide after tuberculosis.

From 1.1 million in 2019, the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis rose to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, hepatitis B accounted for 83 per cent of deaths, while hepatitis C was responsible for 17 per cent of deaths.

“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, in a statement.

“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,” he added.

The report noted that despite the availability of affordable generic viral hepatitis medicines, many countries fail to procure them at these lower prices.

It also recommended expanding access to testing and diagnostics, strengthening primary care prevention efforts, and using improved data for action.

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