Via ECDC: Viral hepatitis: testing saves lives. Excerpt:
Every year, around 50 000 newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis B and C are reported across Europe but millions are unaware of their infection. Left untreated, hepatitis can cause irreversible liver damage. Hepatitis A is recognised as a re-emerging health threat in Europe.
”In Europe, an estimated 10 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B and C but most of these individuals do not know of their infection”, highlights acting ECDC Director Andrea Ammon on the occasion of World Hepatitis Day.
“A quick blood test helps to check if you are infected or not. Especially those most at-risk for hepatitis should have easy access to testing, for example men who have sex with men or people who inject drugs. After the diagnosis, the actual stage of liver disease and eligibility for treatment can be assessed”, says Ammon.
Reaching and testing those at risk of infection is still a public health challenge across Europe which is why ECDC supports the efforts of the European HIV-Hepatitis testing week that now includes testing for viral hepatitis.
Hepatitis A re-emerging in Europe
Food-borne transmission of hepatitis A virus has been implicated in several outbreaks in recent years: between 2007 and 2012, ECDC and EFSA reported and assessed 14 outbreaks with strong evidence of hepatitis A as the cause. The food items were imported from areas where the virus is still circulating, both outside and inside the EU/EEA.
In 2013 and 2014, three large international hepatitis A outbreaks were reported in several EU/EEA countries; all were associated with consumption of frozen or fresh berries. The largest outbreak was declared over in February 2015 and affected 1500 patients, of which more than 1100 were hospitalised. Frozen berries are a potential high-risk food associated with increasing reports of norovirus and hepatitis A outbreaks and contamination events.
In 2014, hepatitis A was recognised as a re-emerging threat, with travels to endemic areas and consumption of contaminated food items as the main risk factors in Europe.
Hepatitis B and C in Europe – new data
Surveillance data from 2013 show high numbers of newly diagnosed hepatitis B and C cases notified across Europe with a reported hepatitis C rate that is more than twice the reported hepatitis B rate. Chronic cases dominate across both diseases with a marked variation between countries: in 2013, 19 930 cases of hepatitis B virus infection were reported in 28 EU/EEA Member States, a crude rate of 4.4 per 100 000 population. 26 EU/ EEA Member States recorded 32 512 cases of hepatitis C resulting in a crude rate of 9.9 per 100 000 population.
Between 2006 and 2013, more than 137 000 newly diagnosed cases of hepatitis B and over 241 000 newly diagnosed hepatitis C infections were reported in Europe – and this is known to be an underestimate of the true burden as hepatitis is largely asymptomatic, so many cases are not diagnosed.