WHO targets ‘zero viral hepatitis’ in Europe by 2030

This photo taken on March 5, 2021 shows the flag of the World Health Organization (WHO) at the agency's headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
(FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

COPENHAGEN – Viral hepatitis can be eliminated as a public health threat in the European region by 2030, if European leaders "act now", said World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge on Wednesday in a press release to mark World Hepatitis Day.

"Countries in the WHO European Region have pledged to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public threat by 2030. This is possible even if COVID-19 may have set us back," Kluge said in the statement.

World Hepatitis Day takes place every year on July 28 to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes severe liver disease and hepatocellular cancer, which claims one life every 30 seconds globally, according to WHO statistics

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World Hepatitis Day takes place every year on July 28 to raise awareness of viral hepatitis, an inflammation of the liver that causes severe liver disease and hepatocellular cancer, which claims one life every 30 seconds globally, according to WHO statistics.

This year the campaign message is 'Hepatitis Can't Wait'.

"We know the science and we have the tools – with renewed political commitment, clear targets and funding, we can prevent hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths," Kluge added.

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To eliminate viral hepatitis in the European region by 2030, the WHO has recommended four steps, namely an improvement in access for diagnosis and treatment; the vaccination of all children against hepatitis B and provisions to help prevent mother-to-child transmission; an end to the stigma and discrimination due to transmission of the virus; and a call upon governments to set their own national hepatitis targets as well as fund hepatitis services.

Experiences from countries that are pioneers in hepatitis response demonstrate that hepatitis elimination is only possible by ensuring that no-one is left behind, the press release noted.