Viral hepatitis often goes undiagnosed for years, which often leads to the degeneration of the disease in other serious health conditions such as liver cancer. Unfortunately, EU policy action on communicable diseases focuses predominantly on HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria with the occasional reference to hepatitis.
The 63rd World Health Assembly, which brought together Health Ministers and senior health officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) Member States, concluded business with delegates adopting resolutions on a variety of global health issues. One of the resolutions of particular interest to EASL was on Viral hepatitis.
On the occasion of World Hepatitis Day 2010, the ECDC posted a factsheet recognizing that “prevention, surveillance and control of hepatitis B and C are of high importance". The ECCD also establishes a preliminary timeline for setting up a European surveillance system of viral hepatitis:
“Currently, ECDC is conducting a survey to collect and validate detailed information on existing surveillance systems and prevention programmes in the EU to obtain a profound base for further activities in this field. Based on the results which will be available in the second half of 2010, ECDC plans to:
• establish a network for HBV/HCV surveillance at the European level in order to get reliable, comparable data;
• assess the evidence base for successful prevention and intervention in this area; and
• issue guidance for reducing the transmission of communicable diseases among injecting drug users, a relevant risk group for hepatitis B and C, but also for HIV."
The European Parliament adopted a Written Declaration on Hepatitis C. In collaboration with the European Liver Patients Association (ELPA), EASL is now pushing the Commission to adopt a proposal for a EU Council Recommendation on viral hepatitis screening. EASL has also been liaising actively with the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and with the WHO to ensure that an effective surveillance system is put in place in the European region.