Press Release: Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination Guides Care of Viral Hepatitis During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Viral hepatitis vaccination, testing and treatment must continue during the COVID-19 Pandemic” –Dr. John Ward

Decatur, GA., May 21, 2020 – The Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination, a program of The Task Force for Global Health, joins with the journal Clinical Liver Disease to publish a special eight-article series responding to the health threat the COVID-19 pandemic places on those with chronic liver disease and the new challenges facing the health care workers who treat them.

“This series is an urgent call to action for all hepatologists and all clinicians caring for patients with hepatitis to be aware how this new virus is transmitted and how COVID-19 can complicate liver disease,” says Dr. John Ward, Director of the Coalition. “We must keep health care workers and patients safe from COVID-19 while providing high quality care. Patients with hepatitis must not suffer secondary health consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic because of a lack of medical care.”

Dr. John W. Ward, Director of the Coalition, co-authored two of these articles. In the first article, Drs. Ward and Dr. Carlos del Rio , the Executive Associate Dean, Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System, chart the course of COVID-19 pandemic, update the epidemiology of transmission and warn of the co-factors for severe COVID-19. In less than 120 days, COVID-19 has grown from 27 cases in Wuhan, China to a pandemic of over three million SARS-CoV-2 infections and more than 200,000 COVID-19 related deaths in 179 countries. “The rapid spread of COVID-19 reveals how connected we are internationally,” says del Rio.

Ward and del Rio review the non-pharmacologic interventions put in place to stop health care and community transmission pending development of effective treatments and vaccines. “A large scale up of testing, detection and isolation of the infected, and rapid contact tracing are needed to control this pandemic,” says del Rio.

In the second article, Ward and Dr. George Lau of the Humanity & Health Medical Group, Hong Kong SAR, China, bring together recommendations from liver associations in Asia, Europe and the United States. Ward and Lau provide guidance how to move forward with care of viral hepatitis and liver disease, including liver transplants during the pandemic while modifying management of patients with hepatitis to protect medical personnel and their patients.

“The recommendations seek to strike a balance,” Ward says. “Hepatitis B and hepatitis C cause 1.3 million deaths each year. We must make sure people continue to be vaccinated against hepatitis B, tested and treated for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and protected from these life-threatening diseases. During the COVID-19 pandemic, people must not die of hepatitis because they are not getting the care they need.” Ward said.

Both articles are part of the Coalition evidence base for COVID-19 and liver disease and include video interviews with the authors.   

Viral Hepatitis is a Global Health Threat Targeted for Elimination

Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) viruses are the leading causes of viral hepatitis. About 328 million people are infected with HBV and HCV worldwide and the cause of 1.3 million deaths annually. HBV and HCV are the leading cause of mortality from primary liver cancer – the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths. Hepatitis B vaccination beginning at birth provides long lasting protection. Safe oral medications can treat HBV and cure over 95% of persons with HCV infection. However, millions of babies are unvaccinated, and infected persons are untested and missing lifesaving treatments. As a call for action, all nations support the World Health Assembly’s goal of eliminating virla hepatitis as a global health threat by 2030.

Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination

The Coalition for Global Hepatitis was launched in 2019 to accelerate progress towards HBV and HCV elimination. The Coalition is made up over 100 HBV and HCV implementing programs, technical partners, and public and private partners. The Coalition brings together information on ongoing elimination activities, data, and best evidence for program implementation, in addition to providing technical assistance and operational research support. More information can be found at www.globalhep.org.

Task Force for Global Health’s Response to COVID-19

The Task Force for Global Health’s breadth of experience and depth of expertise in strengthening health systems in more than 150 countries supports global, national and local efforts to control the COVID-19 outbreak, strengthen global health security, and protect the world from future pandemics. Across its 17 programs, The Task Force is leveraging existing and new partnerships and capabilities to coordinate the supply of appropriate medical supplies and equipment, support field epidemiology activities such as contact tracing and disease surveillance, provide guidance on conducting safe COVID-19 vaccine trials, and advising on how to best maximize industry skills and capacity to support the CDC in responding to emergency public health needs in the US. More information is available here.

Clinical Liver Disease Journal

Clinical Liver Disease (CLD) is a digital educational, peer-reviewed journal published on behalf of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). The aim of CLD is to provide education for clinicians diagnosing and managing patients with liver disease. CLD articles are accompanied by podcasts, video interviews, and/or slide sets that help emphasize the key teaching points for a clinical audience, and readers can earn Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits for reading, watching, and listening to the content.

Contact:

Coalition for Global Hepatitis Elimination

The Task Force for Global Health

globalhep@taskforce.org

Twitter: @globalhep

330 Ponce de Leon Ave

Decatur, GA 30030

Header photo caption: Free hepatitis enlightenment campaign and screening at internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Makurdi, Benue state, Nigeria. Photo courtesy of Adoose Hospital.

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