hepatitisViral hepatitis significantly affects the African Region. Many people remain symptom free for decades until they develop chronic liver disease. Chronic liver disease is a major cause of cirrhosis, cancer and devastating medical bills.

Acute infection may include symptoms such as jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), dark urine, extreme fatigue, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Approximately one million people die each year from causes related to viral hepatitis.

There are five main hepatitis viruses, referred to as types A, B, C, D and E. Hepatitis is not solely caused by viruses but these five types are of greatest concern in the African Region. 

Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by the ingestion of contaminated food or water. In the Region, approximately 90% of children have been infected with the hepatitis A before the age of 10.

Hepatitis B, C and D can occur as a result of contact with infective body fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions and semen. Hepatitis B can be transmitted from infected-mothers to infants at birth or from family members to infants in early childhood.

Hepatitis D infections occur only in those who are infected with hepatitis B.

WHO calls for urgent action to curb hepatitis