Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is a major global health problem. It can cause chronic infection and puts people at high risk of death from cirrhosis and liver cancer. Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV): the virus can cause both acute and chronic hepatitis, ranging in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness.
A vaccine against hepatitis B has been available since 1982. The vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infection and the development of chronic disease and liver cancer due to hepatitis B. Catch-up vaccination of older individuals and vaccination of groups of higher risk of infection have been implemented in many LAC countries. Groups at higher risk of infection include people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, sexual partners of people living with HIV, prisoners, and others such as recipients of blood products and health-care workers.
There is currently no vaccine for HCV. Hence, there is an even greater need to intensify current efforts to screen for and prevent HCV transmission. WHO recommends a screening test for those considered at high risk of infection (i.e. people who inject drugs and people with HIV) followed by another test for those who screen positive, to establish whether they have chronic hepatitis C infection.
PAHO Hepatitis Health Topics