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Silent killer: Coming to grips with an emerging epidemic of viral hepatitis

By Andi Horvath

Infectious diseases expert and epidemiologist Dr Ben Cowie explains why viral hepatitis is fast becoming a hidden epidemic with significant public health consequences. Most people with chronic hepatitis types B and C aren't even aware they have the diseases as they show no obvious symptoms or signs, yet they risk severe illness or liver damage. So how is the global health community targeting hepatitis, and how to grow awareness in a largely unsuspecting public?

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Cancer of the liver is becoming the fastest-growing cancer type in many parts of the world, overtaking even lung cancer. Why? The hepatitis type B and C viruses and their link to liver cancer. To give you a sense of scale, hepatitis, which simply means inflammation of the liver, was responsible for 1.34 million cancer or cirrhosis deaths in 2015 alone. Two-hundred-and-fifty-seven million people live with chronic hep B infection and another 71 million live with hep C. In fact, while the number of people with tuberculosis and HIV are falling, the numbers of those with hepatitis are going up.

There has been a growing awareness and a move to concerted action to taken on what has become in some parts of the world an epidemic. The World Health Assembly, which governs the World Health Organisation, is targeting the elimination of viral hepatitis as a health threat by 2030. So how is that meant to happen and what are its chances of success?

Our guest on Up Close is physician and epidemiologist [Associate] Professor Ben Cowie, who has been involved in public health policy around viral hepatitis in Australia and internationally. He works in communicable disease epidemiology and surveillance at...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.