New Delhi: On the eve of the first World Hepatitis Day Thursday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Wednesday said that viral hepatitis kills more people than any other communicable disease in the Southeast Asian region.
Terming it a "silent killer", a statement by WHO said: "The estimated number of deaths in the region associated with viral hepatitis and its complications exceeds deaths due to malaria, dengue and HIV/AIDS combined".
According to the statement, every year an estimated 8.98 million cases of hepatitis and 585,800 deaths occur in the South East Asia region.
"Of these, 400,000 cases and 800 deaths are due to hepatitis A, 1,380,000 cases and 300,000 deaths due to hepatitis B, 500,000 cases and 120,000 deaths due to hepatitis C and 6,500,000 cases with 160,000 deaths and 2,700 stillbirths due to hepatitis E," the statement said.
The WHO said that unsanitary conditions, infected blood and unprotected sex are some of the ways by which this disease spreads.
"The region bears more than half the global burden of hepatitis E infection. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable. In approximately a quarter of all such cases, the infection results in death, and stillbirths," it added.
While a vaccine for hepatitis A and B exists, there is no vaccine yet for hepatitis C and E.
"On World Hepatitis Day, WHO recommends that hepatitis be made a notifiable disease," the statement added.