Stockholm – Europe needs more testing programmes to combat viral hepatitis, which can cause liver disease and affects millions of people in the region, a European health agency said on Wednesday.
About 9 million people in Europe are estimated to live with chronic hepatitis B and C, two of the various hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation of the liver.
When chronic it can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death.
Many people infected with the virus are not aware of the condition as they do not have any symptoms, the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said, referring to the need for more testing.
More testing to enhance disease detection and treatment
“The main bottleneck we see in Europe is the actual case detection: too many infections with viral hepatitis remain undiagnosed,” ECDC Director Andrea Ammon said in a statement.
European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis also underlined the need for more testing to enhance disease detection and treatment.
Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with infected body fluids or blood products. Children born to mothers with hepatitis B or C, as well as the sexual partners of people with hepatitis, also risk infection.
While vaccines are available for hepatitis B, none is available for hepatitis C, which is commonly transmitted by people who inject drugs and who share contaminated needles.
The ECDC and other agencies have set a target to eliminate hepatitis by 2030.