The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed that hepatitis B and C cause approximately 80% of all liver cancer deaths and kill close to 1.4 million people every year.
The global health body made this known in a statement released to mark the World Hepatitis Day.
The group also highlighted the urgent need for countries to enhance action to prevent viral hepatitis infection and to ensure that people who have been infected are diagnosed and offered treatment.
To this end, WHO recommends among other things that people should know their risks, demand safe injections, get vaccinated, get tested and seek treatment.
According to WHO, people should be aware of the risks of contracting hepatitis from unsafe blood, unsafe injections, and sharing drug-injection equipment, adding that some 11 million people who inject drugs have hepatitis B or C infection, while approximately 2 million people a year contract hepatitis from unsafe injections.
Also children born to mothers with hepatitis B or C and sex partners of people with hepatitis are also at risk of becoming infected.
They therefore emphasised the need for all health services to reduce risks by using only sterile equipment for injections and other medical procedures, to test all donated blood and blood components for hepatitis B and C (as well as HIV and syphilis) and to promote the use of the hepatitis B vaccine, including in children.
According to the WHO, since 1982, over one billion doses of hepatitis B vaccine have been used worldwide and millions of future deaths from liver cancer and cirrhosis have been prevented.
Earlier in the year, WHO issued new guidelines for treatment of hepatitis B infection, recommending using simple non-invasive tests to assess the stage of liver disease to help identify who needs treatment.
WHO will update recommendations on drug treatments periodically as new antiviral medicines become available and as new evidence emerges.
WHO’s flagship event takes place in Egypt this year, a country that has one of the world’s highest hepatitis burdens, with an estimated 10%of the 15 and 59 population infected with hepatitis C.
Co-sponsored by WHO, the summit is co-organised by the Scottish Government and the World Hepatitis Alliance.
The summit aims to raise the global profile of viral hepatitis, to create a platform for exchange of country experiences and to focus on working with countries to develop national action plans.