By Gift Briton

The World Health organization(WHO) warns about the alarming increase in viral hepatitis, noting that the disease could kill more people than malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV combined by 2040, if current infection trends continue.

According to the organization, hepatitis causes liver damage and cancer, killing over a million people annually across the world.

Furthermore, of the five types of hepatitis infections, hepatitis B and C cause most of the disease and deaths.

Hepatitis C can be cured, however, only 21% of people living with hepatitis C infection are diagnosed and only 13% have received curative treatment.

Also, just 10% of people living with chronic hepatitis B are diagnosed, and only 2% of those infected are receiving the lifesaving medicine.

During the commemoration of the World Hepatitis Day on July 28, WHO made a call for scaling up testing and treatment for viral hepatitis and launched the World Hepatitis Day campaign under the theme “One life, one liver”.

The campaign highlights the importance of protecting the liver against hepatitis for living a long, healthy life. Good liver health also benefits other vital organs – including the heart, brain and kidneys – that rely on the liver to function.

“Millions of people are living with undiagnosed and untreated hepatitis worldwide, even though we have better tools than ever to prevent, diagnose and treat it,” Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said.

He added, “WHO remains committed to supporting countries to expand the use of those tools, including increasingly cost-effective curative medication, to save lives and end hepatitis.”

To reduce new infections and deaths from hepatitis B and C, WHO says that countries must ensure access to treatment for all pregnant women living with hepatitis B, provide hepatitis B vaccines for their babies at birth, diagnose 90% of people living with hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C, and provide treatment to 80% of all people diagnosed with hepatitis.

Countries must also act to ensure optimal blood transfusion, safe injections and harm reduction.