Viral hepatitis is a group of viruses (hepatitis A, B, C, D and E) that cause acute and/or chronic infection and inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis B and C viruses are major causes of severe illness and death.
Hepatitis A and E are typically caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. Hepatitis B, C and D usually occur as a result of parenteral contact with infected body fluids. Common modes of transmission for these viruses include receipt of contaminated blood or blood products, invasive medical procedures using contaminated equipment and for hepatitis B transmission from mother to baby at birth, from family member to child, and also by sexual contact.
Viral hepatitis has emerged as a leading public health problem in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. More than 75% of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in the Region is attributable to hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Despite the availability of effective prevention strategies, HBV and HCV transmission occurs throughout the Region. Many of these infections are acquired in the health care setting. Implementation of infection control, injection safety and blood safety programmes are major challenges.