Hepatitis - Overview


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.

Viral hepatitis, caused by infection with hepatitis viruses A, B, C, D and E, is a serious yet under-recognized global public health problem affecting more than two billion people worldwide and causing about 1.4 million deaths every year.

Hepatitis in the African Region

The African Region has a high number of cases of hepatitis A and E with outbreaks of hepatitis E recently reported in several countries.

It is estimated that 18 million people in the African Region are chronically infected with hepatitis C. These infections lead to chronic disease which can cause severe complications such as cancer of the liver. Regrettably most people with chronic viral hepatitis are not aware of their infection and therefore do not receive appropriate treatment.

Viral hepatitis can be prevented through various ways. These include ensuring safe blood transfusion; adopting safe injection practices; strengthening infection control practices in all health facilities; increasing access to safe drinking water and food; improving personal hygiene; and ensuring proper disposal of sanitary waste within communities.

A safe and effective vaccine is widely available for prevention of hepatitis B infection. The vaccine has been introduced into routine childhood vaccination schedules in 46 countries in the African Region and 72% of children have already received the three doses as recommended. However, more needs to be done to reach the 90% target that has been set.

WHO calls for urgent action to curb hepatitis 

Fact sheets on hepatitis A, B, C, E

Infographics on hepatitis

Hepatitis A and E [pdf 90kB]


Hepatitis B, C and D [pdf 94kB]