According to the World Health Organization (WHO), far too few hepatitis diseases are diagnosed and treated worldwide. That’s why the number of people who died from viral hepatitis rose from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022, the UN agency in Geneva said. 83 percent of deaths were caused by hepatitis B and 17 percent by hepatitis C.

There are five different types of hepatitis, which are caused by different viruses, from A to E. The most dangerous ones are hepatitis B and C, which are among the main causes of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer and to which the WHO report mainly refers.

The WHO recorded a slight decrease in new hepatitis infections, from 2.5 million in 2019 to 2.2 million in 2022. This suggests that vaccination campaigns and other preventive measures are having an effect. Nevertheless, 6,000 people are still infected every day, the organization emphasized.

Few diagnoses – hardly any access to appropriate therapy

Only 13 percent of all people with chronic hepatitis B had been diagnosed with the disease at the end of 2022, and only 3 percent had access to antiviral therapy. About a third of the cases were diagnosed with hepatitis C, and about a fifth of those affected were being treated. The WHO criticized that many countries are still buying hepatitis drugs at too high a price, even though cheaper generics are on the market. In addition, in many places tests and therapies are not financed by the state but have to be paid for by patients.

Hepatitis B and C primarily affect populations in Africa and Asia. According to the WHO, two thirds of new infections worldwide are in Ethiopia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and Vietnam. The viral hepatitis pathogens are transmitted partly through contaminated food (A and E) and partly through blood and sexual contact (B and C).