A new report from the Health Protection Agency (HPA) has revealed an increase in the healthcare burden posed by hepatitis C. The new figures show that hospital admissions for hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease and liver cancer rose from 612 in 1998 to 1,979 in 2010, while deaths have increased from 98 in 1996 to 323 in 2010.
Meanwhile, registrations for liver transplants with post-hepatitis C cirrhosis shot up from 45 in 1996 to 101 in 2011, with the total number of people chronically infected with hepatitis C in the UK now estimated at 216,000.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The virus causes inflammation of the liver and, when left untreated, can result in chronic liver disease, liver failure, or even death. Because the liver is able to work even when damaged, many people are unaware they have the disease at first because they have no symptoms. It is only when the liver becomes seriously damaged that symptoms occur and people report to their doctor.
Dr Helen Harris, a hepatitis expert at the HPA, noted that many people who are affected by the disease are currently unaware of it.
She added: "We must redouble our efforts and continue to develop new schemes to raise awareness in at-risk communities and ensure that individuals who may have been exposed to the virus are tested, diagnosed and treated early."
The figures were released to coincide with World Hepatitis Day on July 28th 2012, an event that has been organised yearly by the World Hepatitis Alliance since 2008.
For further details, see HPA