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Global acute hepatitis cases in kids rises to 700, ten deaths: WHO

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Geneva, June 9 (IANS) Mysterious case of acute hepatitis in kids has infected about 700 children in 34 countries and claimed 10 lives, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The cause behind the liver disease that was first reported in the UK in April, remains unknown, baffling scientists. So far, the five viruses – A, B, C, D and E – that commonly cause hepatitis have not been detected in any of these cases.

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“More than 700 probable cases have now been reported to WHO from 34 countries, and a further 112 cases are under investigation. At least 38 of these children have needed liver transplants, and 10 have died,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, during a media briefing.

The WHO, he said, continues to work with countries to investigate the cause of hepatitis in these children.

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Meanwhile, at the recently held World Hepatitis Summit 2022 the global health body along with World Hepatitis Alliance urged action to eliminate viral hepatitis.

It is estimated 354 million people globally are still living with this life-threatening infection and at least one person dies from viral hepatitis every 30 seconds. That’s over 1 million deaths per year — a greater toll than that from HIV and malaria combined.

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At the 2016 World Health Assembly, world countries had made a historic commitment to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

Timely access to the hepatitis B birth dose is still low in many low- and middle-income countries. Lack of awareness, limited political commitment, as well as stigma and discrimination continue to stop people accessing testing and care.

“Hepatitis is one of the most devastating diseases on earth, but it’s also one of the most preventable and treatable, with services that can be delivered easily and cheaply at the primary health care level,” Ghebreyesus said, at the Summit.

“Many of the reasons people miss out on those services are the same reasons they miss out on services for other health challenges — accessibility and affordability, because of who they are, where they live or how much they earn.

“We call on all countries to commit to realising the dream of eliminating viral hepatitis by 2030, as part of a broader commitment to universal health coverage based on strong primary health care,” the WHO chief said.

–IANS

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