World Hepatitis Day in the Western Pacific Region

The World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region marks World Hepatitis Day (28 July) by celebrating the remarkable successes in fighting hepatitis B while pledging to expand efforts to control the other hepatitis viruses.

The Western Pacific Region was the first of the six WHO regions to set a deadline for the reduction of hepatitis B infection rates in children through vaccination. The Region accounts for half of the world's hepatitis B cases, though it is home to only a third of the world's population.

"Our Member States are committed to reducing hepatitis B infection rates in children to less than 2% by 2012 and to less than 1% as a future goal," says WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo .

"I'm pleased that most have already met this milestone," he adds. "This marks a significant achievement in public health."

In the Western Pacific Region, an estimated 160 million people have chronic hepatitis B infection. Most were infected during birth or early childhood—which is why WHO supports lifesaving vaccination programmes for newborns and children less than one year old.

Still, more than 360 000 people die each year in the Region because of chronic hepatitis B virus or HBV infection.

Hepatitis B virus can be transmitted through contact with blood or other body fluids. The virus attacks the liver and can result in acute or chronic infection. While acute hepatitis B infection may cause jaundice, dark urine, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain, chronic infection may be asymptomatic for years then develop into liver cancer, cirrhosis or another liver disease.

Globally, approximately one out of every 12 people in the world—live with hepatitis B or C. Together, they kill approximately one million people a year.

Yet awareness of the disease and its risk factors remains low.

In the Western Pacific Region, hepatitis C infects more than 60 million people, but there is still no vaccine.

"Given the high endemicity of hepatitis viruses in the Region—especially hepatitis B and C—we need to deliver focused, concerted actions, including prevention, screening and treatment of those already infected," explains Dr Shin.

"We also need to raise people's awareness," he says. "We wholeheartedly support World Hepatitis Day to promote greater understanding of these viruses."

World Hepatitis Day is a mandate of the World Health Assembly. WHO's Western Pacific Region marks the day with the theme: "Know the risks; Stop the spread."

For more information, please contact:

Marilu Lingad
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