April 21 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization on Friday released the first Global Hepatitis Report setting new baseline data on the impacts of viral hepatitis globally.
The Global Hepatitis Report is a follow-up to WHO's Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which set a goal of eliminating viral hepatitis, hepatitis B and C, by 2030.
"For the first time in the history of viral hepatitis, we have an understanding of the true impact of the disease," Charles Gore, president of the World Hepatitis Alliance, said in a press release. "WHO's Global Hepatitis Report provides us with new data and a set of very specific, global and regional targets to reach by 2030 -- for instance global deaths from hepatitis must be brought down from 1.34 million to lower than 469,000 people per year."
The report shows that 325 million people live with viral hepatitis or approximately 4.4 percent of the world's population. Other findings in the report include only 9 percent of people with hepatitis B and 20 percent with hepatitis C know they have the disease.
The leading causes of hepatitis C infection are unsafe healthcare procedures and injection drug use accounting for 1.75 million new infections.
Since 2000, deaths from viral hepatitis increased by 22 percent while deaths from other diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis have declined.
"Today, 325 million men, women and children are living with a cancer-causing illness despite the availability of preventative vaccines for hepatitis B and curative treatments for hepatitis C," Raquel Peck, CEO of World Hepatitis Alliance, said. "We need to use this report to advocate for a public health approach, so that testing and treatment are rolled out at the scale necessary to ensure that every person has the opportunity to live a healthy life. We have the knowledge, what we need now is action."