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  • Up to 50,000 people in Ireland are estimated to be infected with hepatitis C

    Posted on July 28th, 2014 TimB No comments

    Up to 50,000 people in Ireland are estimated to be infected with hepatitis C, however many of these have not been diagnosed and therefore remain untreated.

    The HSE is today urging anyone who may be at risk of hepatitis C to seek help and get tested as it is estimated that between 20,000 and 50,000 people in Ireland are chronically infected with hepatitis C, more than half whom are not aware of the infection.

    Effective testing and treatment are available, according to consultant hepatologist, Dr Stephen Stewart, speaking on behalf of the HSE National Hepatitis C Implementation Group, to mark World Hepatitis Day 2014, which takes place today.

    “About 1,000 new cases are notified each year and Irish health services will come under further pressure in the future if we don’t actively work to prevent new cases occurring and diagnose and treat the cases that have already occurred.

    “Hepatitis C is often called ‘the silent pandemic’, because many patients are infected without knowing it and may only present in the very late stages when cirrhosis has already been established..

    “A minority– estimated at 20-30% -develop cirrhosis of the liver, which typically appears two or three decades after infection. Those patients also suffer a higher risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer. The healthcare costs of these ‘end-stage conditions’ of hepatitis C can be substantial. They are the leading cause of liver transplants worldwide, including in Europe, the US and Japan.

    “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 Dr Stewart. “Diagnostic tests are now relatively simple and the treatments are getting better and better with time”.

    The HSE has produced a number of campaign materials including posters and videos urging people to ‘seek help, get tested’

    The posters are available at www.hse.ie/hepc and to download the National Hepatitis C Strategy 2011-2014

    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.

     

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