European failure to screen for hepatitis leading to greater
5 December 2012
Population screening for hepatitis, 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
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 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. This finding confirms observations made
by patient's associations and practitioners.
Tatjana Reic, President of the European Liver Patients
Association (ELPA) commented, "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
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
"The French position is partly due to national strategic
co-ordination," 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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