Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver, most often caused by a virus but sometimes by drug or alcohol abuse, other infections, or autoimmune diseases. There are five main types, known as A, B, C, D and E. According to the World Health Organization, types A and E are typically transmitted via contaminated food or water, while B, C and D usually occur from contact with body fluids of an infected person.
400 million people around the world infected with hepatitis B or C.
The number grows by 6 to 10 million a year.
95 per cent of people infected with hepatitis B or C do not know they are infected.
96 per cent of hepatitis deaths are caused by types B and C.
Deaths linked to hepatitis have surpassed those caused by Aids, TB and malaria, according to data from 183 countries. Deaths from infection, liver disease and cancer caused by viral hepatitis increased by 63 percent from 890,000 in 1990 to 1.45 million in 2013 (in 2013 there were 1.3 million deaths from Aids, 1.4 million from tuberculosis, and 855,000 from malaria.)
"Whereas deaths from many infectious diseases - such as TB and malaria - have dropped since 1990, viral hepatitis deaths have risen," said Graham Cooke, from Imperial College London's medicine department. "We have tools at our disposal to treat this disease - we have vaccines to hepatitis A and B and we have new treatments to C," for which there is no vaccine, said Cooke. “However the price of new medicines is beyond the reach of any country - rich or poor.”