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WHO: Untreated hepatitis kills 124,000 Africans annually

WHO: Untreated hepatitis kills 124,000 Africans annually
July 28
11:54 2021

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says over 124,000 Africans die each year as a result of undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, disclosed this in her remarks to commemorate world hepatitis day.

Moeti said the disease inflames the liver and it is capable of causing cancer and cirrhosis.

She said over 90 million people are living with the disease in Africa, representing 26 percent of the global total.

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The director said 4.5 million African children, under five years, are infected with chronic hepatitis B, reflecting an enormous 70 percent of the global burden in that age group.

According to her, the global target of less than one percent incidence of hepatitis B in children under five years has been reached, but the African region is lagging behind at 2.5 percent.

She said the cases in children can be prevented if mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the disease is eliminated during or shortly after birth and in early childhood.

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“Key interventions against hepatitis B include vaccination at birth and in early childhood, screening pregnant women, and providing timely treatment,’’ Moeti said.

She said countries are being encouraged to integrate the hepatitis B PMTCT in the ante-natal care package together with the HIV and syphilis PMTCT programme.

She added that only 14 countries in Africa are implementing the hepatitis B birth-dose vaccine.

“Among people who are infected, nine out of 10 have never been tested, because of limited awareness and access to testing and treatment,” she said.

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“Even among countries offering hepatitis B birth-dose vaccine, health systems are facing challenges in ensuring pregnant women and mothers are tested and that those who test positive are treated.

“At the same time, there are many promising developments on hepatitis. With the launch of the first global strategy on hepatitis in 2016, along with increased advocacy in recent years, political will is starting to translate into action.

“Hepatitis medicines have also become much more affordable, with prices as low as 60 dollars per patient for a 12-week treatment.”

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