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Hepatitis C cases increased by 6% last year

The future burden on the NHS will be substantial warns the HPA

OnMedica Staff

Friday, 11 December 2009

There has been a rise in the number of people diagnosed with hepatitis C in England.

Figures from the Health Protection Agency's yearly report on Hepatitis C for 2009 showed that laboratory reporting of newly diagnosed hepatitis C infections in England increased in 2008 by 6% compared to 2007, with 8,196 new cases reported in 2008.

The HPA predicts future burden on the NHS from hepatitis C related liver disease.

It is estimated that currently around 185,000 individuals in the UK are chronically infected with hepatitis C (142,000 in England & Wales, 39,000 in Scotland and 4,000 in Northern Ireland); these individuals are at risk of developing serious liver disease.

Predictions from the HPA indicate that the future burden of this disease on the health service will be substantial if awareness, diagnosis and treatment do not increase. This can already be seen in national mortality figures, hospital admissions and transplant data, which all show that hepatitis C related serious liver disease is continuing to increase year-on-year.

The increase in newly diagnosed cases may be attributable in part to the public information campaigns and the subsequent increase in awareness which has encouraged more people to come forward and get tested, says the HPA.

However, Dr Helen Harris, a hepatitis C expert from the HPA warned that too many people are still undiagnosed.

"It is critical that awareness campaigns are sustained and enhanced if more people at risk of this infection are to be tested and treated," she said.

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