European Union Facing ‘Hidden’ Hepatitis C Epidemic, Report Says
The European Union is facing a "hidden" epidemic of hepatitis C that could overpower the health budgets of the group's 15 member nations, according to a report released on Wednesday by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. The report says that more than one million people -- and potentially up to several million people -- in the European Union currently have hepatitis C, with 60% to 90% of the cases linked to injection drug use. The report says, "Health promotion activities are needed to discourage people from injecting drugs or to change their behavior to reduce the risk of contracting the virus if they are unable to stop." The report calls on governments to establish needle-exchange programs and improve monitoring systems for the disease, according to AFP/Yahoo! News. Every year of delay in reacting to the epidemic results in an additional $1.7 billion in treatment costs, according to the report. EMCDDA President Georges Estievenart said, "The implications of inaction for E.U. public health budgets are likely to be considerable. It is better to provide screening, prevention education and treatment now than to let the disease spread and to wait until sufferers become chronically ill" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 2/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.