As a nation, we have experienced unprecedented events and witnessed great tragedy as a result of a virus for which we currently have no cure.
Hepatitis C is the first curable chronic viral infection in medical history, yet 71 million people are living with the virus globally, with about 1.75 million new infections every year. In Ireland, 20,000-30,000 people are living with the disease – a comparable number to those who have tested positive for COVID19 here.
To mark World Hepatitis Day which took place on Tuesday, and as part of global efforts to eradicate the virus, the Hepatitis C Partnership has launched a public health campaign to help people in Ireland understand how Hepatitis C is transmitted and to promote the availability of treatment. The key difference is that many of those living with Hepatitis C are unaware they are infected, and therefore, are not receiving the treatment they need to cure this virus," said Nicola Perry of the Hepatitis C Partnership, a charity working towards the elimination of Hepatitis C in Ireland.
"This can be a damaging virus, causing serious harm before symptoms are even detected," she added. "We are calling on the public to ask themselves the simple question: ‘Could you have Hep C?”; by logging on to www.hepcpartnership.ie they can access information, support and testing."
Those who could potentially be at risk include anyone who has ever shared equipment used to inject or consume drugs, as well as those who have had tattoos and/or piercings in unlicensed settings. The risk of sexual transmission is higher in those who are co-infected with HIV and for those who have multiple sexual partners. Epidemiological data published by the HPSC in 2019 highlighted that for 12% of people infected, no known risk factor was identified.
Of the estimated 20,000-30,000 people living in Ireland with Hepatitis C, up to 6,000 (20-30% ) will develop liver cirrhosis after 25-30 years of infection and are also at risk of liver cancer and liver-related death. "It is vital that we identify and treat people as soon as possible to prevent the progression of diseases associated with this virus," according to Nicola Perry of the Hepatitis C Partnership.
She added: "We have all become aware of the struggle to find a cure for Covid-19, however, Hepatitis C has overcome that struggle. Over 95% of those who undertake treatments will successfully be cured of the virus.
“Ireland has committed to the World Health Organisation’s 2030 elimination target for Hep C,” Perry continued. “Meeting elimination targets will not only prevent new cases of liver cancer and cirrhosis and save lives, it will significantly reduce the burden of cost on our already straining public health system. Together we can all make a difference here. Lets Cure it fast and Cure it Now."