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Europe Fails to Screen its Population for Hepatitis

BRUSSELS, November 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --

International index on hepatitis care performance reveals deficits in screening and stark inequality in care performance levels between EU Member States - EU coordination for national activities necessary - Publication on 6 November in Brussels

Population screening especially in risk groups is not conducted systematically in most EU Member States, making it the weakest spot of hepatitis care policies in comparison to prevention and treatment. This is one of the key results of the "Euro Hepatitis Care Index", a comparison of the performance of hepatitis care in 27 EU Member States, Switzerland, Norway and Croatia, which has been published on 6 November in Brussels in the framework of a conference supported by the Cypriot EU Presidency. Consequently a large proportion of infections will be detected late, leading to secondary damage and making it more likely that patients unknowingly pass on the virus. This finding confirms observations made by patient's associations and practitioners.

Tatjana Reic, President of the European Liver Patients Association (ELPA) comments: "Even rich countries like Germany do not perform well in screening. We have the doctors, nurses and facilities in Europe, many are excellent, but they do not treat as many patients as they could because there is no effective and systematic screening to detect patients early. Unrecognised hepatitis leads to severe damage of the liver and cancer which makes an infection with hepatitis a potentially life-threatening condition."

The Euro Hepatitis Care Index has been put together by Swedish think tank Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP) on behalf of and funded by ELPA. First place is held by France, followed by Slovenia and Germany. "The French position is partly due to national strategic coordination," says Tatjana Reic: "France is the only country in Europe which has developed a national plan to tackle all aspects of hepatitis care. Central coordination helps to exploit the full potential of otherwise isolated efforts by practitioners, patient groups and other stakeholders. The EU Commission should take these findings as an opportunity to encourage Member States to implement national hepatitis strategies and push the exchange of best practices, as it successfully does in other in other fields."

Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver, most commonly caused by a viral infection. Across Europe 23 million citizens are chronically infected with the hepatitis virus, 125.000 die annually. Most patients are unaware of their infection.

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