The HSE today (Tuesday) urged anyone who may be at risk of hepatitis C to seek help and get tested as it is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people in Ireland are chronically infected with hepatitis C, more than half of whom are not aware of the infection. Approximately 700-800 new cases are notified each year.
Testing and effective treatments are available, according to, Professor Joe Barry, speaking on behalf of the HSE National Hepatitis C Implementation Committee, to mark World Hepatitis Day 2015, which takes place today. The Department of Health has allocated €30m to the HSE in 2015 to support the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme – this is a significant commitment by the Irish healthcare system to ensure the continued provision of treatment to all persons in Ireland with hepatitis C over the coming years.
Professor Barry said, “Hepatitis C is often called “the silent pandemic”, partly because the virus takes so long to manifest itself in those infected. Spread largely by blood-to-blood contact, in about 15-30% of cases the body’s natural defences can eliminate the disease. The rest of those infected develop the chronic form of HCV. For most, however, this initially has no discernible symptoms, or non-specific ones such as general fatigue.”
“Anyone who may have put themselves at risk of hepatitis C, either through current activities or due to a past lifestyle should visit their GP and get tested. While the majority of hepatitis C infections are related to injecting drug use, hepatitis C can also be acquired by any blood to blood contact,” said Professor Barry. “Diagnostic tests are now relatively simple and the treatments are getting better and better with time. To date in 2015 approximately 500 patients in Ireland with advanced liver disease as a result of hepatitis C have been approved for treatment using directly acting antivirals (DAAs) which greatly improve outcomes for patients.”
The HSE is finalising the appointment of a Hepatitis C Treatment Programme Clinical Lead and Programme Manager. This will ensure the continued rollout of treatment to patients in Ireland with hepatitis C using the DAAs and the best treatment regimes to improve patients’ lives.
World Hepatitis Day is an annual event, endorsed by the World Health Organization. Each year it provides international focus for patient groups and people living with hepatitis B and C and provides an opportunity for interested groups to raise awareness and influence real change in disease prevention and access to testing and treatment.
The HSE has a number of materials including posters and videos urging people to ‘seek help, get tested’. The posters are available at www.hse.ie/hepc, while the videos are available atwww.drugs.ie/hepc.
For further information please go towww.hse.ie/hepc, www.drugs.ie, www.hpsc.ie