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Viral Hepatitis Deaths on the Rise, Outstrips AIDS or TB

Jul 08, 2016 11:29 PM EDT
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Viral hepatitis is rapidly becoming one of the leading causes of death and disability - killing as many as AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.

According to the researchers from the Imperial College London and the University of Washington, who published their study in The Lancet, hepatitis infections and their complications have led to about 1.45 million deaths in 2013, despite vaccines and treatments.

AIDS-related deaths total to 1.2 million in 2014, while TB led to 1.5 million deaths, a World Health Organization (WHO) statistics showed.

"This is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the global burden of viral hepatitis. And it reveals startling findings -- showing the death toll from this condition is now 1.45 million," Dr. Graham Cooke, research leader from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said in a press release.

"Whereas deaths from many infectious diseases -- such as TB and malaria -- have dropped since 1990, viral hepatitis deaths have risen," he added.

The researchers analyzed data from 183 countries gathered between 1990 and 2013. Findings of the research indicate that viral hepatitis-related deaths increased by 63 percent over the 23-year period.

Researchers also found that deaths from viral hepatitis were higher among high and middle-income countries than lower-income nations.

"Although there are effective treatments and vaccines for viral hepatitis, there is very little money invested in getting these to patients -especially compared to malaria, HIV/AIDS and TB," Cooke said.

"We now have a viral hepatitis global action plan approved in May by the World Health Assembly, and we now need to implement it."

According to the study, most hepatitis deaths were found to occur in East Asia. Researchers also found that 96 percent of deaths were caused by hepatitis B and C, which may lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Symptoms include fatigue, jaundice and nausea.

There are some cases when symptoms do not appear, and so some people may not know they are infected until serious complications develop.

The WHO has put together a hepatitis strategy in May 2016, which aims to reduce new cases of hepatitis B and C by 30 percent by 2020, including a 10 percent reduction in mortality rate, BBC reports.

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