Australia has very good health surveillance systems compared to many other countries. Surveillance reports are published to inform the national response and measure progress against targets of the National Blood-borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategies 2018-2022. Australia has committed to these national targets for 2022 and has signed on to World Health Organization global hepatitis elimination targets for 2030.

The following is a selection of key statistics drawn from the latest available Australian surveillance and mapping data, and where relevant cites the corresponding national targets.

Snapshot of Hepatitis B in Australia

Prevalence

  • In 2018 there was an estimated 226,566 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia, representing 0.90% of the population.[1]
  • In Australia it is estimated that 68.1% of those living with chronic hepatitis B have ever been diagnosed. The national target is 80% by 2022.[2]

Care and treatment

  • Only 22.1% of those with chronic hepatitis B are engaged in care (that is, regular monitoring or receiving antiviral therapy). The national target is 50% by 2022.[3]
  • Only 9.3% of people with chronic hepatitis B receiving antiviral therapy, less than half the national target of 20% by 2022.[4]

Mortality

  • In 2018 there were an estimated 435 deaths attributable to hepatitis B (the national target requires <328 in 2022).[5]

Snapshot of Hepatitis C in Australia

Prevalence:

  • At the end of 2018 an estimated 130,089 people in Australia were living with chronic hepatitis C, down from 188,951 at the start of 2016.[6]
  • There were 10,537 notifications of hepatitis C in Australia in 2017.[7]

Treatment

  • 74,704 Australians (39% of those living with hepatitis C) received antiviral treatment between March 2016 and June 2019, over halfway to the national target of 65% by 2022.[8]
  • The number of people receiving treatment for hepatitis C continued to decline from 17,648 in the four months to June 2016 down to 3,988 for the corresponding period in 2019, with between 794 and 1,101 people treated per month during January to June 2019.[9]
  • During the period March 2016 – June 2019, some 72% of people who completed treatment received follow-up (SVR) testing to confirm treatment outcomes.[10]

Morbidity and Mortality

  • During 2017-2017 there were 66 liver transplants due to chronic hepatitis C or hepatitis C‑related hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer).[11]
  • An estimated 583 deaths were attributable to hepatitis C during 2016-2017.[12]

Viral Hepatitis and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are disproportionately affected by hepatitis B, with considerable variation by geographic region.

  • In 2018, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were estimated to make up 7.2% (around 16,241 individuals) of the 226,566 Australians living with chronic hepatitis B.[13]
  • Indigenous Australians are much more likely to be affected by hepatitis B if they are living in remote (5.3% affected) and very remote (5.5% affected) regions compared with major cities (where 1.1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are affected).[14]
  • For all populations in 2018, engagement in care (regular monitoring or antiviral treatment) and treatment uptake for people living with hepatitis B was highest in major cities (24.4% and 10.5% respectively) and lowest in remote regions (14.4% and 2.3%).[15]
  • In 2017 childhood hepatitis B vaccination coverage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was 93% at 12 months and 97.5% at 24 months of age (compared with non-Indigenous Australians at 94.6% and 96.4% respectively).[16]
  • Highlighting the importance of vaccination coverage, data suggest hepatitis B prevalence is 80% lower in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers born after 1988 (when childhood vaccination was introduced), compared with mothers born before 1988.[17]

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are also disproportionately affected by hepatitis C, with considerable variation by geographic region.

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up 3% of the Australian population, but at least 11% of newly reported cases of hepatitis C each year.[18]
  • They report higher rates of risk factors for hepatitis C, including receptive sharing of injecting equipment and are over-represented in corrections settings.[19]
  • There is no current estimate of Indigenous hepatitis C population prevalence, although 2007 modelling estimated there were between 13,000 and 22,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living with hepatitis C.[20]
  • Infections in people aged under 25 years (which help estimate the number of recent infections across all ages) in 2017 were six times higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (76.7 per 100,000 people) than for non-Indigenous people (12.2 per 100,000).[21]
  • Whilst most people living with hepatitis C live in metropolitan areas, those living in rural and remote areas are more likely to have hepatitis C.[22]
  • Access to treatment is approximately twice as high in urban and regional areas as it is in remote regions of Australia.[23]
References

[1] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Doherty Institute. National Surveillance for Hepatitis B Indicators: Measuring the progress towards the targets of the National Hepatitis B Strategy – Annual Report 2018.

[6] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[7] Kirby Institute. HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report 2018.

[8] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[9] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Kirby Institute. HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report 2018.

[12] Ibid.

[13] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[14] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2017.

[15] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[16] Kirby Institute. HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report 2018.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Fifth National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Blood Borne Viruses and Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy 2018-2022.

[20] Ward, J. (2019, 6 August). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Researcher & Community Perspective. Plenary presentation at the Australasian Viral Hepatitis Elimination Conference, Sydney, NSW.

[21] Kirby Institute. HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia: Annual surveillance report 2018.

[22] ASHM. Viral Hepatitis Mapping Project: National Report 2018-19.

[23] Ibid.


Page updated 24 July 2020