What you need to know about Hepatitis B and C
Viral hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) are major public health threats affecting around 325 million people worldwide and causing approximately 1.34 million deaths annually.
HBV and C are chronic infections that may remain asymptomatic for as long as years or even decades. More than 60% of liver cancer cases are due to late testing and treatment of HBV and C. Low coverage of testing and treatment is the most important gap to be addressed in order to achieve the global elimination goals by 2030.
Globally, around 300 million people are unaware of their infection with viral hepatitis. Worldwide, less than 20% had access to testing and treatment services for hepatitis B and C at the end of 2016. Without finding the undiagnosed and linking them to care, millions will continue to suffer, and lives will be lost (WHO, 2018).
Hepatitis B and C in Lebanon
The WHO’s last official assessment of viral hepatitis in Lebanon conducted in 2007 estimated that the incidence rate of hepatitis B is 6 per 100,000 population with a prevalence ranging from 1.6% to 2.2%. The incidence rate of hepatitis C did not exceed 1.7 cases per 100,000 individuals and the prevalence was 0.7%.
Moreover, almost 0.2% of the population was found to have a coinfection. Higher prevalence for both infections are expected in selective high-risk populations such as hemodialysis patients and drug abusers.
In 2012, Abou Rached et al. conducted another national prospective cross-sectional study aiming to determine the prevalence of hepatitis B and C in Lebanon. The study published in 2016 estimated that 1.74% of the Lebanese population were living with hepatitis B while 0.21% were living with hepatitis C. Results place Lebanon amongst countries with low endemicity for both viruses.
The low prevalence of hepatitis in Lebanon is believed to be attributed to the various awareness campaigns, the success of the MoPH National Hepatitis Program in vaccinating all newborns with hepatitis B since 1998, in premarital and high-risk group screening, subsidizing treatment for hepatitis B and C for poor people based on nationally adapted guidelines, and ensuring vigilant blood transfusions through the various blood banks.
With the support of WHO, the MoPH will continue its efforts until transmission is halted and everyone living with viral hepatitis has access to safe, affordable, and effective care and treatment.