GENEVA, April 21(Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) Friday said in an report that an estimated 325 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
The WHO Global hepatitis report indicated that the large majority of these people lack access to life-saving testing and treatment. As a result, millions of people are at risk of a slow progression to chronic liver disease, cancer and death.
"Viral hepatitis is now recognized as a major public health challenge that requires an urgent response," said Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "Vaccines and medicines to tackle hepatitis exist, and WHO is committed to helping ensure these tools reach all those who need them."
Viral hepatitis caused 1.34 million deaths in 2015, a number comparable to deaths caused by tuberculosis and HIV. But while mortality from tuberculosis and HIV has been declining, deaths from hepatitis are on the increase.
Approximately 1.75 million people were newly infected with HCV in 2015, bringing the global total of people living with hepatitis C to 71 million.
The report also demonstrated that despite challenges, some countries are taking successful steps to scale up hepatitis services.
China achieved high coverage (96 percent) for the timely birth dose of HBV vaccines, and reached the hepatitis B control goal of less than 1 percent prevalence in children under the age of five in 2015.