Thursday, July 28, 2011

WHO: Hepatitis toll 'in millions'

Medical experts are calling for global action to tackle the viruses that cause the liver disease hepatitis.

The first worldwide estimates in drug users show 10 million have hepatitis C while 1.3 million have hepatitis B.

Writing in the Lancet, experts say only a fraction of those who could benefit are receiving antiviral drugs.

Only one in five infants around the world are vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, they say.

The figures, published in the Lancet, show about 67% of injecting drug users in the world have been exposed to hepatitis C, while around 10% have come into contact with hepatitis B.

In the UK, around half of injecting drug users have been infected with the hepatitis C virus, while the rate for exposure to hepatitis B is 9% - the highest in western Europe. (more)