Associated with considerable mortality and morbidity, hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects around 70 million people worldwide causing chronic, progressive liver disease, cirrhosis and liver cancer. More than 500,000 people die from HCV-related liver diseases each year.
Many people infected with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection status leading to delayed diagnosis and people missing out on highly effective curative treatment. 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 in Australia
An estimated 180,000 Australians live with chronic hepatitis C resulting in more than 600 deaths from liver cancer and liver failure each year, making 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.
Over 50,000 Australians are estimated to have been cured with these new treatments. However much work needs to be done if Australia is to stop new infections and deaths due to hepatitis C.
The World Health Organization set global targets to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat including 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.