July 28, 2017 | | Comments 0
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Celebrating World Hepatitis Day 2017

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day, and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint Commission have reaffirmed their commitment to eradicating Hepatitis B and C by 2030.

The WHO says there’s promising data coming out of the 28 countries that represent 70% of the global hepatitis burden. Nearly all of those countries have established high-level national hepatitis elimination committees (with plans and targets in place) and over half have allocated dedicated funding for hepatitis programs and education. The organization also added a new generic treatment to its list of Hep C medicines to increase access to therapy this week.

“It is encouraging to see countries turning commitment into action to tackle hepatitis,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General in a public statement. “Identifying interventions that have a high impact is a key step towards eliminating this devastating disease. Many countries have succeeded in scaling-up the hepatitis B vaccination. Now we need to push harder to increase access to diagnosis and treatment.”

Viral hepatitis affected 325 million people worldwide in 2015 and caused 1.34 million deaths—more those people killed by HIV deaths. Of cases worldwide, 257 million were of Hep B and 71 million were Hep C, which are the two main killers of the five types of hepatitis. And while Hep C can be cured, only 7% of those infected have access to treatment.

“If you’ve been paying attention to health news, you’ve probably heard that everyone, especially Baby Boomers, should be screened for Hepatitis C,” Lisa Waldowski, DNP, PNP, CIC, Joint Commission infection control specialist wrote in a press release. “Testing for the disease, which produces few, if any symptoms, leads to treatment and, eventually, eradication of the Hep C virus that was transmitted at its highest rates from 1960 to 1980.”

The promotion of blood safety and infection control are also key factors in reducing both Hep B and C transmission. However, a 2016 study found that only 17.4% of U.S. nurses follow all the standard blood-borne disease precautions. http://goo.gl/jn7i2y The study also found that many nurses had several misconceptions about Hep C including:

  • 26% incorrectly believed Hep C is commonly spread through sexual activity (it’s spread primarily through blood)
  • 14% incorrectly think most Hep C victims will die prematurely
  • 12% didn’t know that people can have Hep C antibodies without currently being infected
  • 11% didn’t know that there’re multiple Hep C genotypes

“The national response towards hepatitis elimination is gaining momentum. However, at best one in ten people who are living with hepatitis know they are infected and can access treatment. This is unacceptable,” said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, WHO’s Director of the HIV Department and Global Hepatitis Programme. “For hepatitis elimination to become a reality, countries need to accelerate their efforts and increase investments in life-saving care. There is simply no reason why many millions of people still have not been tested for hepatitis and cannot access the treatment for which they are in dire need.”

The Joint Commission has made a list of several resources about hepatitis, and the WHO press release came with a list of injection safety tools and resources.

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Filed Under: Patient Safety

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Brian Ward About the Author: Brian Ward is an Associate Editor at HCPro working on accreditation news.

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