GENEVA - The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Wednesday measures to fight the “hidden epidemic” of hepatitis which kills more than one million people a year. The virus, which settles in the liver causing inflammation, affects 500 million people worldwide but can go unnoticed for years and even decades, the UN health agency told reporters. “The vast majority of people infected with hepatitis are unaware, undiagnosed and untreated,” says Dr Sylvie Briand of WHO’s Pandemic and Epidemic Disease Department. “Only by increasing awareness of the different forms of hepatitis, and how they can be prevented and treated, we can take the first step towards full control of the disease,” she added.

 One in 12 people are infected by the virus which exists in five forms: A, B, C, D and E. The WHO is particulary keen to target types B and C since “a high proportion” of people only become aware of their infection when they are chronically ill.