A new data, published by the Public Health England (PHE), show a 11% decline in deaths because of hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease in 2017 compared to the previous year. This fall could be attributed to the use of new antiviral medications having the potential to cure in most cases with fewer side effects than previously used medications.
More people than ever before having access to treatment now could be another reason. Compared to the previous year, there has been a 19% increase in people accessing treatment. This figure would stand to a 125% increase when compared to pre-2015 levels. Data also reveal that rates of new end-stage liver disease and cancer diagnoses have remained stable between 2011 and 2015 with an average of 1974 new cases/year.
As per estimates, nearly 200,000 people have a long-term hepatitis C infection. However, around half of people living with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection. PHE urges anyone who are previously diagnosed with hepatitis C or engaged in activities that may put them at risk to get tested. Along with testing and treatment, prevention through needle and syringe exchange services and opiate substitution therapies need to be sustained to achieve WHO’s target of eliminating this disease as a major public threat by 2030.
Dr. Sema Mandal, Consultant Epidemiologist at PHE commented: “We are urging anyone who has ever injected drugs, had a tattoo or medical treatment overseas where proper hygiene procedures may not have been followed, or had a blood transfusion before hepatitis C screening was in place, to get tested at their general practitioner, community drug services or sexual health clinic.” If people are unsure, a short quiz on the Hepatitis C Trust website can help out if they should get tested.