World Hepatitis Day — Monday 28th July 2014

  • Post category:World News

World Hepatitis Day is an annual event which takes place on the 28th July and is endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Each year it provides international focus for patient groups and people living with hepatitis B and C and provides an opportunity for interested groups to raise awareness and influence real change in disease prevention and access to testing and treatment.

The HSE National Hepatitis C Implementation Group was established in 2012 to work on improving the prevention, detection and treatment of Hepatitis C among all infected groups in Ireland and to provide a framework for a coordinated and integrated response to Hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is often called ’the silent pandemic’, because many patients are infected without knowing it and may only present in the very late stages when cirrhosis has already been established..

It is largely spread by blood-to-blood contact and in about 15-30% of cases the body’s natural defences can eliminate the disease. However, the rest of those infected develop the chronic form of the disease.  For most, initially there are no discernible symptoms, or non-specific ones such as general fatigue. This apparently benign situation can last for decades before turning decidedly worse.

A minority– estimated at 20-30% -develop cirrhosis of the liver, which typically appears after two or three decades after infection. Those patients also suffer from a higher than normal risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer. The healthcare costs of these ’end-stage conditions’ of hepatitis C can be substantial. They are the leading cause of liver transplants worldwide, including in Europe, the US and Japan.

Effective testing and treatment are available.   While the majority of hepatitis C infections are related to injecting drug use, hepatitis C can also be acquired by any blood to blood contact.

About 1,000 new cases are notified each year and Irish health services will come under further pressure in the future if hepatitis C is not prevented, treated or diagnosed.

The HSE has produced new materials- a downloadable poster and videos – to coincide with World Hepatitis day.   They are available at the links below.