22 MAY 2014 | GENEVA - The World Health Assembly approved a resolution to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of viral hepatitis.
Viral hepatitis is responsible for 1.4 million deaths every year; 500 million people currently live with the disease. There are 5 main hepatitis viruses (A, B, C, D and E). Types B and C lead to chronic disease in hundreds of millions of people and, together, are the most common cause of liver cirrhosis and cancer. The resolution also highlights the importance of expanding hepatitis A and B vaccination programmes and further strengthening infection control measures in health-care settings – such as strategies to improve the safety of injections.
The resolution noted the importance of implementing appropriate measures to protect groups such as people who inject drugs from infection and to improve their access to diagnostics and treatment. As most people with chronic hepatitis B or C remain unaware of their infection, there is also a need to improve screening.
Delegates agreed to consider a range of measures to improve access to quality and affordable hepatitis medicines and diagnostics, whilst addressing intellectual property rights issues related to those products. The delegates asked the WHO Secretariat to continue to help countries develop robust strategies and goals on hepatitis and to report regularly on the progress of such programmes, as well as examining the feasibility of eliminating hepatitis B and C.