Could You Have Hepatitis? New Report Shows That the Majority of Europeans With Hepatitis C Remain Undiagnosed

Geschrieben am 01-10-2007

Brussels, Belgium (ots/PRNewswire) -

- European Liver Patients Association Urges People at Risk to get

A report(1) released today by the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network
(EHRN)(i) highlights the significant inconsistencies that exist in
hepatitis C (HCV) diagnosis and treatment across Europe and beyond.
In recognition of World Hepatitis Awareness Day, patient groups
around the globe are united in their call for action.

The report indicates that in some European countries it is
estimated that more than 90% of people who are infected with HCV have
not been diagnosed (Germany 90%; Poland 98%)(ii). Not only does this
put many people at risk of long-term liver damage, it also means that
they may unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

"It is alarming that in the twenty-first century there are
European countries where up to 98% of people with chronic hepatitis C
may not even know they are infected", says Nadine Piorkowsky,
President, European Liver Patients Association (ELPA). "The peak of
hepatitis C related mortality is still to come. If we want to flatten
it, policymakers in Europe will have to act now. We are therefore
calling on the EU and national governments to urgently recognise
hepatitis C as a major public health threat."

Stephen Hughes, Member of European Parliament, agrees: "The
European Union has a crucial role in identifying best practice with
regard to hepatitis C screening in order to address existing health

Hepatitis C and, specifically, the under-diagnosis of HCV
infection are not unique to Europe; rather, HCV is a global health
issue and the rates of diagnosis are a problem around the world. In
fact, HCV is much more common than HIV, the virus that causes AIDS,
with more than four times as many people living with hepatitis C than
with HIV.(2) According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an
estimated 53,700 deaths globally each year are directly attributable
to HCV. The WHO also reports that more than 308,000 deaths annually
are likely to be due to liver cancer caused by HCV and associated
with a significant proportion of the 785,000 deaths due to
cirrhosis.(3) This suggests that, globally, HCV may cause up to
500,000 deaths a year, and possibly even more. With many undiagnosed
cases of HCV, it is likely these numbers will rise in the near

"The EHRN report on HCV prevalence in Europe highlights the need
for more in-depth studies in order to increase awareness and ensure
an evidence-based approach to this disease", says Jeffrey Lazarus,
World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe.

The report shows that the availability and quality of national,
regional and global HCV reporting, resourcing and screening varies
dramatically from country to country. For example, even the official
data from the United Kingdom illustrates that almost two-thirds of
estimated HCV cases are undiagnosed (88,337 diagnosed, 192,663
undiagnosed), which, sadly, is a significantly better rate of
diagnosis to undiagnosis than most countries. In contrast, in Poland
the estimated number of cases in the general population is 750,000,
while only 20,000, or 2%, of cases have been diagnosed.

Ms Piorkowsky recognises the importance of awareness campaigns:
"Today, on World Hepatitis Awareness Day, we draw attention to the
ongoing needs in the hepatitis C battle globally, and call on people
who may be at risk to get tested!"

France is a clear example of the positive impact public awareness
campaigns can have. Due to government-led campaigns, hepatitis
awareness in that country has increased substantially. Currently, an
estimated 56% of those infected know that they have the infection,
compared with 24% in 1994. In contrast, the EHRN report indicates
that in northern Spain, only 16% of people who tested positive for
HCV were aware of their status.

Globally, 180 million people are infected with hepatitis C; many
others are infected and do not know it.(4) Could you be one of them?
Get tested.

Risk Factors for Hepatitis C

- Have tattoos or body piercings

- Had a blood transfusion before screening was introduced (in most
countries, before 1992)

- Shared equipment for injecting drugs or cocaine straws/bank

- Had medical or dental interventions in countries where equipment
is not adequately sterilised

- Had needle stick injuries (especially emergency services and
healthcare workers)

- Shared a toothbrush or a razor (very low to medium risk)

About World Hepatitis Awareness Day

Now in its fourth year, World Hepatitis Awareness Day, which takes
place on 1 October 2007, aims to increase awareness about hepatitis B
and C. This year, ELPA and other international patient organisations
are working together to promote this important educational initiative
and encourage those at risk to "Get Tested'". Alarmingly, many people
are unaware that they are infected and remain undiagnosed. Left
untreated, both forms of viral hepatitis can lead to cirrhosis, liver
cancer and liver transplantation, yet hepatitis B can be prevented
through immunisation and, in many cases, hepatitis C can be cured.
The EHRN report on prevalence of hepatitis C in Europe illustrates
the situation of undiagnosed cases (available at
http://www.hepatitisday.info). ELPA has been supported by
unrestricted grants from Bristol-Myers Squibb, F. Hoffmann-La Roche
Ltd, Gilead, Novartis and Schering-Plough.

About the European Liver Patients Association (ELPA)

ELPA emerged from a desire amongst European liver patient groups
to share their experiences of the very different approaches to liver
disease adopted in different countries. In June 2004, 13 patient
groups from 10 European and Mediterranean countries created the
association. ELPA was formally launched in Paris on 14 April 2005,
during the annual conference of the European Association for the
Study of the Liver (EASL) and now has 20 members from 17 countries.
ELPA's aims are to promote the interests of people with liver disease
and, in particular, to highlight the size of the problem. This
involves promoting awareness and prevention, addressing the low
profile of liver disease compared with other areas of medicine such
as heart disease, sharing experience from successful initiatives and
working with professional bodies such as EASL and with the EU to
ensure that treatment and care are harmonised across Europe to the
highest standards.

Further information about hepatitis can be found on:



For broadcast-standard video supporting this press release, please
visit http://www.thenewsmarket.com/elpa. If you are a first-time
user, please take a moment to register. Questions may be directed to:


(1). Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN). Comparative analysis
of HCV prevalence across selected countries of Europe and the
Mediterranean area; 1 October 2007.

(2). World Health Organization. AIDS Epidemic Update. 2006.
(Accessed February 27, 2007, at

(3). World Health Organization. Department of Measurement and
Health Information. (December 2004).

(4). World Health Organization. Initiative for Vaccine Research,
Viral Cancers, Hepatitis C. 2006. (Accessed July 24, 2006, at http://

(i) EHRN: Formerly known as the Central and Eastern European Harm
Reduction Network (CEEHRN)

(ii) EHRN data: Percentage calculated by subtracting diagnosed
cases from estimated number of cases in general population

ots Originaltext: European Liver Patients Association (ELPA)
Im Internet recherchierbar: http://www.presseportal.de

For more information, please contact: Nadine Piorkowsky, President,
European Liver Patients Association (ELPA), Phone: +49-(0)2225-18476,


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