HSE Supports World Hepatitis Day 2016

28 July 2016

The HSE is supporting the 2016 World Hepatitis Day and welcomes the many initiatives that are being organised by the voluntary and advocacy sectors to mark the day in Ireland.  In 2010 the World Health Organization made World Hepatitis Day one of only four official disease-specific worldwide health days, celebrated each year on the 28th July.  Millions of people across the world now take part in World Hepatitis Day, to raise awareness about viral hepatitis, including hepatitis C and to call for access to treatment, better prevention programmes, improved surveillance and testing, and government action.

The theme of World Hepatitis Day 2016 is ELIMINATION and in 2015 the HSE established a National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme whose ultimate goal is the elimination of Hepatitis C in Ireland by 2026.  This will be done through the implementation of a multi annual public health plan – this fully supports the hepatitis elimination strategy as adopted by WHO member states at its World Health Assembly meeting in May 2016. 

Professor Suzanne Norris, Consultant Hepatologist and Clinical Lead for the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme says, “Hepatitis C is curable and the National Hepatitis C Treatment Programme aims to provide everyone in Ireland infected with Hepatitis C access to treatment over the coming years with a view to making Hepatitis C a rare disease in Ireland by 2026.  Our goal is to meet or exceed the WHO target of elimination by 2030.   One of our objectives in taking part in the World Hepatitis Day is to raise awareness about the virus and to encourage people to recognise if they are at risk or have previously been at risk for Hepatitis C and get tested. Many people infected with hepatitis do not know they are infected with Hepatitis C (see list of symptoms below).  Currently there are an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people in Ireland chronically infected with hepatitis C, more than half of whom are not aware of their infection, the stage of their disease and, in some cases, are not linked to care. 

Michele Tait, Project Manager for the HSE Treatment Programme commented, “Taking part in World Hepatitis Day is important for everyone affected by Hepatitis C and for everyone working to support people who are infected.  The day helps us to raise awareness as there are thousands of people who are infected but unaware.  The HSE is taking part in the World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) NOhep campaign; WHA is a global patient led group made up of 230 organisations across 81 countries working in the field of viral hepatitis. The HSE has signed up to the WHA to show our commitment to the elimination of Hepatitis C in Ireland by 2026.  As part of World Hepatitis Day the WHA will launch a new international movement called NOhep. The HSE is asking all of its staff and partner agencies to partake in the NOhep worldwide Twitter Thunderclap at 12.00 on Thursday 28th July to rasie awareness across the world (#NOhep: Eliminate hepatitis).

By working with agencies, the HSE National Treatment Programme, the HSE Hepatitis C Strategy Implementation group and our staff who deliver services; we can raise awareness of hepatitis and improve access to treatments.

More information on World Hepatitis Day is available at http://worldhepatitisday.org/ and information on NOhep is available at www.NOhep.org. 

Signs and symptoms of Hepatitis C (four stages) are listed below:

  • the acute stage
  • the chronic stage
  • compensated cirrhosis, and
  • decompensated cirrhosis

The acute (initial) stage

The acute stage is the first six months of infection. Most people do not experience any symptoms during this phase.

Other people will have vague flu-like symptoms, including:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • stomach pains
  • nausea
  • vomiting

These occur a few weeks after being infected. A few people also develop jaundice. Approximately one in five people will fight off the hepatitis C virus and clear it from their body during this period.

The chronic stage

Hepatitis C is said to be chronic when you have been infected for longer than six months. In people with a chronic infection, the virus remains active but may not cause any symptoms throughout their life or for many years. They may remain well and develop no liver problems. However, they are carriers, which means that they can pass the virus on to others, for example, by sharing needles. Others with chronic hepatitis C will develop symptoms, including:

  • extreme tiredness
  • depression
  • short-term memory problems or difficulty concentrating
  • mood swings
  • digestive problems
  • joint and muscle aches and pains
  • headaches
  • flu-like symptoms
  • pain or discomfort in the liver area
  • stomach pains
  • itching 

Compensated cirrhosis

About one in five people with chronic hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis over a period of about 20 to 30 years (it can be sooner in people who drink alcohol).

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver as a result of long-term, continuous damage to the liver. It is a serious condition where healthy tissue in the liver is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue, which starts to block the flow of blood through your liver.  Compensated cirrhosis means that the liver can still carry out its normal functions (the liver can compensate for the damage).

Decompensated cirrhosis

A few people with compensated cirrhosis will deteriorate further and develop decompensated cirrhosis. This means the liver stops functioning (liver failure).

Last updated on: 27 / 07 / 2016