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Hepatitis C Is An Increasing Burden, Finds Report

Hepatitis C Is An Increasing Burden, Finds Report

Chronic hepatitis C infection has led to severe liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer, in 4,500 people living in England and Wales, according to figures published yesterday.

This figure could rise to about 7,000 in five years’ time, suggests a new report by the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

Dr Helen Harris of the HPA said: "Of the estimated 200,000 individuals who have a chronic hepatitis C infection a proportion will go onto develop severe liver damage."

Most patients could be successfully treated, she said.

"The success of treatment relies on people coming forward for testing.

"To enable this, local health services need to provide clear pathways of referral to enable these patients to access the necessary services and be diagnosed."

Diagnoses of hepatitis C rose from 6,341 in 2003 to 7,902 in 2004. The increase is mainly due to injecting drug use, Dr Harris explained.

"Prevalence of hepatitis C among injecting drug users (IDUs) is high at around 40 per cent. The spread of infection can be prevented by reducing injecting drug use or encouraging current injectors to quit. If injecting cannot be avoided, injecting equipment should never be shared," she said.

Professor Pat Troop of the HPA added: "Our report shows that the burden hepatitis C places on the individual and on healthcare services is high and will rise in the future.

"Public and professional awareness campaigns, such as ’FaCe It’, being run by the Department of Health are vital."

Last Updated: 15/12/2005 - 12:00 AM