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World Hepatitis Day to take place next week

June 22, 2016

World Hepatitis Day will be taking place across the globe next week, with events designed to raise awareness of the disease and bolster prevention scheduled for Tuesday June 28th.

The theme of this year's event is 'elimination', as doctors, nurses and other health experts from around the world come together to devise a strategy to stop various hepatitis strains from spreading.

Those who work closely with sharps will be particularly affected by any new rules that come into play as a result of this elimination work.

Here, we take a look at what World Hepatitis Day will involve, as well as the steps that are being taken to reduce the number of cases of hepatitis that are diagnosed across the globe each year.

What is World Hepatitis Day?

World Hepatitis Day takes place each year to raise awareness of the different strains of hepatitis and how they spread in an attempt to reduce the number of annual diagnoses.

This year's event is especially significant because May's World Health Assembly saw member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) adopt the first official Elimination Strategy for Viral Hepatitis, which outlines the measures they will be taking to eradicate the disease between now and 2030.

Organisers want to see June 28th as a starting point for conversations around safe vaccinations, blood contamination and sharps safety to raise greater awareness of how hepatitis C in particular is spread from person to person.

As the condition can be spread when drugs are injected, contaminated needles are used or needlestick injuries occur, medical professionals who work in close proximity with sharps are set to play a central role in these conversations to educate people about the risks of hepatitis transmission.

With this in mind, World Hepatitis Day will see a series of events taking place online and in local communities to meet the global target of eliminating 30 million cases of the disease over the next 15 years.

Reducing hepatitis diagnoses around the world

Significant progress has already been made in this regard, with several governments around the world well on the way to meeting their hepatitis elimination targets.

At the 69th annual World Health Assembly last month, where the global elimination strategy was launched, an update was given on the current situation with the rate of diagnosis.

It is believed that the strategy will see annual deaths from hepatitis decrease by 60 per cent between now and 2030 if it is successful, while treatment for the disease will be increased to 80 per cent of sufferers worldwide. As a result, it is hoped that 7.1 million lives will have been saved across the globe in this relatively short timeframe.

As of February this year, 36 countries already had a national strategy in place aimed at tackling the spread of hepatitis, while a further 33 reported that they had plans in the development stages ready to be implemented in the near future. This signals a positive start to the campaign, but shows that more work needs to be done before hepatitis is no longer a public health threat in the remaining 125 WHO member states.

Raquel Peck, chief executive of the World Hepatitis Alliance, commented: "The adoption of [the] WHO Viral Hepatitis Strategy signals the first step in eliminating viral hepatitis - an illness which affects 400 million worldwide. We congratulate governments for showing great ambition.

"If governments remain committed, we will witness one of the greatest global health threats eliminated within our lifetimes."


Image: xrender via iStock

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