Hepatitis B and C infect one in fifty adults in European Region

Over 13 million adults are living with hepatitis B and 15 million with hepatitis C in the WHO European Region – indicating a huge burden of treatment and care. New estimates published in an article on 30 May 2013 by WHO/Europe, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Public Health England suggest that almost one in fifty adults is infected with hepatitis B and a similar proportion of people have chronic hepatitis C.

Most of those infected in the European Region live in eastern European and central Asian countries: 66% of those with hepatitis B and 64% of those with hepatitis C.

Higher rates of hepatitis among vulnerable groups

People who inject drugs are the most affected (15% for hepatitis B and 44% for hepatitis C), but infection is also common in other vulnerable population groups such as men who have sex with men (8.7% and 4.2%, respectively), and sex workers (3.3% and 11%, respectively). By comparison, rates in the general population of countries in the European Region outside the European Union and European Free Trade Association are 3.8% for hepatitis B and 2.3 % for hepatitis C.

Viral hepatitis is recognized as a global public health problem and a World Health Assembly resolution in 2010 called on Member States to take urgent action to strengthen prevention and control measures.