Hepatitis C, a liver disease caused by the blood-borne hepatitis C virus (HCV), is a major cause of mortality and morbidity. An estimated 71 million people have chronic hepatitis C, according to the World Health Organization.
The disease causes chronic, progressive liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer. The WHO estimated that in 2016, 399 000 people died from hepatitis C – mostly from cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Many people infected with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection status, leading to delayed diagnosis and low access to highly effective curative treatments. Antiviral medicines can cure more than 95 per cent of people with hepatitis C infection. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent infection.
Babies born to HCV infected mothers are at risk of contracting the virus and it is also transmitted through the blood of an infected person.
Eliminating hepatitis C in Australia
An estimated 180,000 Australians live with chronic hepatitis C resulting in more than 500 deaths from liver cancer and liver failure each year. That makes it one of Australia’s major public health issues. Highly effective curative treatments called direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) became available in Australia in March 2016.
WHO global targets to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat include an 80 per cent reduction of hepatitis C-reduction in new hepatitis C infections and a 65 per cent related deaths by 2030 compared with 2010.