Viral hepatitis is defined as inflammation of the liver cells due to viral infection. The burden of liver disease in South Africa is mostly underestimated as viral hepatitis, in particular chronic infection, is a silent and neglected cause of morbidity and mortality. However, the burden of disease is likely substantial given the prevalence of chronic viral hepatitis. This burden is further compounded by the lack of screening and access to care and treatment as well as inadequate disease surveillance, human and financial resources.
The National Guidelines for the Management of Viral Hepatitis were developed, with the purpose to:
- inform healthcare workers in the public and private sectors about the disease, its epidemiology in South Africa and current methods of diagnosis and therapy
- strengthen the healthcare response to viral hepatitis
- empower communicable diseases workers and stakeholders to make informed decisions regarding appropriate and cost effective interventions