Fast Facts on Hepatitis C
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Hepatitis C is a virus that attacks the liver. The virus spreads through any type of blood‐to‐blood
Globally, about 150 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus, and more than 350 000 people die every year from hepatitis C‐related liver diseases.i
There are approximately 230,500 Australians living with chronic hepatitis C, which is defined as having had the infection for longer than six months. ii
About 25% of those living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia have moderate to severe liver disease.iii
The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C can take years to emerge, however liver damage can be silently progressing. Left untreated it can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and liver failure.
It is estimated that around 15% of people living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia have not yet been diagnosed.iv
Sharing drug injecting equipment is the principle route of hepatitis C transmission in Australia. Other risks include unsterile body art and piercing, accidental exposure in healthcare settings and blood transfusion prior to 1990.
Needle and syringe programs are very effective in helping to stop the spread of hepatitis C. Education about blood awareness and transmission risks is also critical.
There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C, but the infection can be prevented, and in many cases, cured.
New breakthrough direct-acting antiviral medicine were made available on the PBS from 1 March 2016. These new medicines offer a cure for between a 90-95% of people living with hepatitis C. More new treatments are expected to follow for all less common strains of the virus.
Many people report complementary medicines help to alleviate symptoms of their chronic hepatitis C; however, some complementary medicines can be harmful to the liver. Therefore, the best outcomes are achieved through collaboration between the person with hepatitis C, their GP, or liver specialist and their complementary medicine practitioner.
i World Health Organization Hepatitis C Factsheet No. 164 July 2014
ii Kirby Institute, HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Transmitted Infections Annual Surveillance Report 2015
iii NCHECR (Kirby) Annual Surveillance Reports 2004 and 2012 (reporting on data for 2003 and 2011 respectively)
iv The Boston Consulting Group ‘The Economic Impact of hepatitis C in Australia’ released August 2012, p 15
Last updated: July 2014.
Page Updated: 15 July 2014