World Hepatitis Day 2017

Updates from the CDC Center for Global Health

July 28, 2017

Dear Colleagues,
World Hepatitis Day takes places every year on July 28th to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to bring about real change. This year’s theme is “Eliminate Hepatitis.” World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to unite people from all backgrounds—be it patients, health care professionals, or governments—to achieve the final goal: elimination of hepatitis.

Hepatitis B, one of five types of viral hepatitis, can be transmitted through bodily fluids (such as blood and semen) and transmitted from mother to baby at birth. Currently, 90% of children infected before 1 year of age develop chronic hepatitis B. Over 700,000 people die each year from hepatitis B because of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, and globally an estimated 257 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B.

Thankfully, there are effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B. However, very few of those infected have been tested or received treatment, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The hepatitis B vaccine is most effective when infants receive the first dose within 24 hours of birth. This timeframe is critical because it eliminates the transmission of hepatitis B from mother to child.

As of 2016, only half of the countries around the world included a birth dose of the hepatitis B vaccine in their routine immunization schedules despite the recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO). Vaccination remains the most effective and cost-saving strategy to prevent hepatitis B infection and costs $0.20 for the birth dose in most low-income countries.

CDC provides both technical assistance and financial resources to WHO and countries to reduce hepatitis B virus infections. We work in countries to find innovative ways to overcome the challenges associated with administering hepatitis B vaccines at birth. CDC also works with countries to document the burden of disease among children prior to vaccine introduction to provide the evidence needed to support the inclusion or expansion of hepatitis B vaccination. These efforts help countries reach their elimination goals.

The introduction of a birth dose of hepatitis B vaccine is a critical tool to eliminate hepatitis B. CDC experts provide evidence-based recommendations and strategies for the expansion of hepatitis B vaccination coverage. At the country level, this includes developing political commitment, enacting immunization policies, establishing key partnerships, training health care professionals, and monitoring program implementation. At health facilities, strategies include assigning vaccination responsibilities to health professionals who deliver babies, reinforcing the cold chain capacity, and ensuring adequate stock of hepatitis B vaccine supply. Engaging the private health sector is another critical strategy to achieve elimination. For home deliveries, education about vaccination and community support are key—including trained community health volunteers and skilled birth attendants and using single-dose vials or compact pre-filled auto-disable devices outside the cold chain.

We remain committed in our efforts to eliminate hepatitis B through proven vaccine strategies—preventing future long-term costs and deaths due to liver cancer. It is time to act.

Sincerely,
/Rebecca Martin/

Rebecca Martin, PhD
Director, Center for Global Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/global

William W. Schluter/

William W. Schluter, MD, MPH
Director, Division of Global Immunization
Center for Global Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/globalhealth/immunization

Page last reviewed: May 18, 2017
Content source: Global Health