Public Health England (PHE) says there is an urgent need to ramp up hepatitis C case finding initiatives and programmes for those who are diagnosed but untreated.
The statement comes as PHE releases the most up-to-date statistics on hepatitis C virus (HCV) in England. The statistics show that, between 1996 and 2017, the number of laboratory-confirmed reports of HCV in England increased more than eight-fold, with 17,186 reports of individuals testing positive for anti-HCV and/or HCV ribonucleic acid in 2017.
Sentinel surveillance data show a 21 per cent increase in testing between 2013 and 2017, with a 6 per cent increase in testing via GP surgeries.
Injecting drug use continues to be the most important risk factor, being cited in around 90 per cent of all laboratory reports where risk factors were disclosed. In 2017, 52 per cent of people who had injected psychoactive drugs and were participating in the Unlinked Anonymous Monitoring survey of people who inject drugs tested positive for anti-HCV and 49 per cent had evidence of current infection.
In the forward of the new report, Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation and Countermeasures Service at the National Infection Service (NIS), and Professor Geoff Dusheiko, NIS Interim Deputy Director for Blood Safety, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections and HIV Service, said: “The findings of this report indicate progress but also impediments - although a lot has been achieved, there is still much to do."
“If we are to eliminate HCV as a major public health threat by 2030, it is essential that we continue to work in synergy with stakeholders across the whole public health system, and by combining our efforts we should augment our impact,” they said.