The burden of disease due to chronic viral hepatitis constitutes a global threat. In many Balkan and Mediterranean countries, the disease burden due to viral hepatitis remains largely unrecognized, including in high-risk groups and migrants, because of a lack of reliable epidemiological data, suggesting the need for better and targeted surveillance for public health gains. In many countries, the burden of chronic liver disease due to hepatitis B and C is increasing due to ageing of unvaccinated populations and migration, and a probable increase in drug injecting. Targeted vaccination strategies for hepatitis B virus (HBV) among risk groups and harm reduction interventions at adequate scale and coverage for injecting drug users are needed. Transmission of HBV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) in healthcare settings and a higher prevalence of HBV and HCV among recipients of blood and blood products in the Balkan and North African countries highlight the need to implement and monitor universal precautions in these settings and use voluntary, nonremunerated, repeat donors. Progress in drug discovery has improved outcomes of treatment for both HBV and HCV, although access is limited by the high costs of these drugs and resources available for health care. Egypt, with the highest burden of hepatitis C in the world, provides treatment through its National Control Strategy. Addressing the burden of viral hepatitis in the Balkan and Mediterranean regions will require national commitments in the form of strategic plans, financial and human resources, normative guidance and technical support from regional agencies and research.
Keywords: Balkan region; Mediterranean; hepatitis B; hepatitis C; hepatocellular carcinoma; northern Africa; surveillance.
© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.