European countries need to step up testing and treatment programmes for viral hepatitis, which can cause liver disease and affects millions of people in the region, a European health agency said Wednesday.

An estimated 10 million Europeans are believed to live with chronic hepatitis B and C, two of the various hepatitis viruses that cause inflammation of the liver.

A common, largely "silent" disease, it can lead - when chronic - to cirrhosis, liver cancer and death.

However, many people infected with the virus are not aware of the condition as they do not have any symptoms, the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a statement ahead of World Hepatitis Day, which falls on Thursday.

ECDC and other partners have set a 2030 target to reduce the global number of hepatitis cases by 90 per cent and to slash mortality rates.

"To eliminate viral hepatitis in Europe, we need to work together to boost testing services, scale up treatment programmes and increase the coverage of prevention interventions to prevent infections in the first place," said Andrea Ammon, ECDC acting director. Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, noted that "hepatitis is also 'silent' in the way that it affects the most vulnerable groups of our society."

Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with infected body fluids or blood products. Children born to mothers with hepatitis B or C as well as sex partners of people with hepatitis also risk infection.

While vaccines are available for hepatitis B, none is available for hepatitis C, which is commonly transmitted by people who inject drugs and who share contaminated needles. Transmission can also occur in unsterile conditions in connection with tattooing or acupuncture.

Some cases are also linked to migrants from countries with a high prevalence of viral hepatitis, the ECDC said.

Italy and Romania were estimated to have the highest number of chronic hepatitis B cases in the region, each country has about 1 million cases. They were followed by Poland, Germany, France, Britain, Bulgaria and Spain with between 550,000 to 300,000 cases. Italy, Romania and Spain were estimated to have the highest numbers of hepatitis C cases. The ECDC groups the 28-member European Union and the non-EU countries of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Related stories

US Hepatitis C Cases Soar on Spike in Heroin Use

HBV Transmission During Pregnancy Curtailed By Antiviral

What Are The Silent Signs Of Liver Cancer?

Dengue fever: painful tropical disease, difficult to control

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.