World Hepatitis Day
Worldwide over 250 million people are living with hepatitis B. For World Hepatitis Day on July 28, learn about global efforts to provide hepatitis B treatment to people who need it and actions individuals can take.
Hepatitis B is a significant public health threat, with an estimated 257 million people living with hepatitis B worldwide in 2015. The hepatitis B virus is common in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands, but also has increased rates in the Amazon region of South America, the southern parts of eastern and central Europe, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has global goals for eliminating viral hepatitis infections. These goals include reducing 90% of new infections and 65% of deaths from viral hepatitis infections worldwide by 2030. To achieve these reductions, accessing treatment is important. A recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report article reports on the global progress in accessing hepatitis B treatment in 2016.
Chronic hepatitis B virus infection is serious
Hepatitis B is an infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. Many people with chronic hepatitis B became infected at birth or during early childhood, which increases the chance of the infection developing into a chronic, or lifelong, illness. Over time, chronic hepatitis B can cause serious health problems, including liver cancer and liver failure. Worldwide, nearly 900,000 people die each year, primarily from complications of cirrhosis, and liver cancer caused by hepatitis B virus infection. Although hepatitis B is a vaccine-preventable disease, many people became infected before the hepatitis B vaccine was widely available.
Many people can live with the hepatitis B virus for years without knowing it
Among the 257 million people living with hepatitis B worldwide, only 1 in 10 had received a diagnosis and was aware of their infection in 2016. People can live with the hepatitis B virus for years without having any symptoms or feeling sick. Often, people do not know they are infected until they have been tested.
Access to hepatitis B treatments is important
Once people are diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B virus infection, they should have regular medical monitoring. Monitoring helps identify when treatment may be needed and may prevent liver damage or cancer related to the infection. However, not everyone living with hepatitis B requires medication. Once started, treatments can be lifelong.
In 2016, of the estimated 27 million people who were aware of their infection, approximately 1 in 6 people were receiving treatment for their infection. Around the world, treatment coverage varies by region and incomes of countries. Increasing the availability of generic treatments for hepatitis B virus infection may help improve access since the median price of generic treatments fell by over 85% from 2004 to 2016. Other ways to increase access to treatments might include gaining a better understanding of the true burden of hepatitis B, improving the access and availability of affordable ways to diagnose hepatitis B virus infection, and training health care providers.
Do you need to be vaccinated and/or tested for hepatitis B?
CDC is continuing to lay the foundation for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a public health threat, both domestically and abroad. To see if you need to be tested and/or vaccinated for hepatitis B, as well as other types of viral hepatitis, take CDC’s online Hepatitis Risk Assessment, which is based on CDC recommendations for the United States.