Written by Maricarmen Robles
Edited by Alexandra Bravo Schroth
World Hepatitis Day is celebrated on July 28th in memory of Dr. Baruch Blumberg’s birthday. Blumberg not only discovered the hepatitis B virus and proved that it could cause liver cancer, but he also developed a diagnostic test and a vaccine to combat the virus. Because of his invaluable work about this illness was awarded the Medicine Nobel Prize in 1976.
This day brings an excellent opportunity to step up national and international efforts on hepatitis, promote actions against the illness, and raise awareness of the importance of its prevention. Data from 2021 shows that Hepatitis B and C infections cause more than one million deaths per year, and only 10% of people with chronic hepatitis B get diagnosed. Furthermore, less than 25% of the people diagnosed have access to treatment. What is even more worrying is that less than 50% of the global children population have access to the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine (World Health Organization, 2021).
Those statistics show that we have not significantly improved since 2020. Last year 325 million people had Hepatitis B or C worldwide; around 900,000 people passed away from Hepatitis B; and the percent of children without access to the birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine was 42% (World Health Organization, 2020).
In 2016, the World Health Organization made a call to eliminate worldwide viral hepatitis by 2030 (CDC, 2020). Still, some obstacles compromise the achievement of this goal, the low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed to eliminate it (World Health Organization, 2021). To stop worldwide viral hepatitis, the World Health Organization calls to protect newborns from the infection by diagnosing and treating the virus in the mothers and giving children the vaccine at birth and at least two more doses later. Moreover, it is vital is to extend access to diagnostic tests and hepatitis treatments worldwide.
“Hepatitis Can’t-Wait” is this year’s theme. It is a call to action for all countries to unite against the public health threat of viral hepatitis and eliminate it by 2030. Everyone can become an advocate against viral hepatitis. We can help achieve the goal by sharing the Key Messages of the campaign and broadcasting the Fact sheets of the five different types of hepatitis.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, August 27th). Global Viral Hepatitis: Millions of People are Affected. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/global/index.htm.
World Health Organization. (2020). Día Mundial contra la Hepatitis 2020. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/es/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day/2020.
World Health Organization. (2021). Fact sheets. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day/2021/fact-sheets.
World Health Organization. (2021). Key messages. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day/2021/key-messages.
World Health Organization. (2021). World Hepatitis day 2021. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day/2021.
World Health Organization. (2021). World Hepatitis Day. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/campaigns/world-hepatitis-day.