BEIJING – Around 100 million Chinese are infected with the hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus and half a million die every year of liver cancer, caused largely by this disease, the World Health Organization announced Saturday.
The number of Chinese people infected with the virus are almost one third of the over 300 million people suffering from chronic hepatitis B or C worldwide, although less than 5 percent of them have been diagnosed or know that they have the disease, the WHO said in a statement.
“Many people, especially those in low and middle income countries, don’t know they are infected, so they cannot access the right treatment,” said Marc Bulterys, who heads the WHO’s Global Hepatitis Programme.
This week, the WHO approved its first set of global guidelines on tests for the detection of hepatitis B and C, which simplify the procedure to make it faster in isolated populations and areas with a high incidence of the disease.
The organization said China “has made tremendous progress towards the prevention and control of viral hepatitis.”
However, the WHO representative in China, Bernhard Schwartlander, stressed that the country “has a huge burden of both hepatitis B and C” as approximately 7 percent of its population is infected or suffers from the disease and “yet many people are still unaware.”
Schwartlander added that a detection of hepatitis B followed by early treatment could check the progression of the disease and even reverse liver damage.
Moreover, hepatitis C is curable thanks to a new generation of antiviral drugs which have already cured over a million people throughout the world.
The guidelines for tackling disease were released this week during a meeting in Shanghai on liver medicine with specialists from the Asia-Pacific region.