Britain Faces Growing Hepatitis C Crisis: Report
September 30, 2005
A report released today shows that Britain has Europe's worst record for diagnosing and treating hepatitis C virus (HCV). Commissioned by the Hepatitis C Trust (HCT) in Britain, the report said only about 2 percent of HCV-infected persons in the country receive treatment, compared to 13 percent in France. More than 300,000 people in Italy have been treated for the blood-borne infection, while in Britain that number is slightly above 50,000 -- less than France, Germany, and Spain.
"If we continue to do nothing about hepatitis C then between 100,000 and 300,000 people will have to endure preventable liver disease," said professor William Rosenberg of southern England's University of Southampton. If detected and treated early, Rosenberg said, the cure rate for HCV is 40-80 percent.
If HCV-infected patients in Britain are not treated, it will cost the National Health Service an estimated £156 million ($276 million US) annually to treat liver complications. In 10 years, that cost could escalate to £1.8 billion ($3.18 billion US).
The report urged officials to set targets for screening patients; offer immediate treatment for people diagnosed with HCV; and increase public awareness about the disease. Otherwise, it said, the number of HCV cases will continue to soar; liver cancer rates will increase; and Britain's liver transplant service will be in crisis.
"Over 400,000 people in the UK with the virus are completely unaware they have been infected," said Charles Gore, HCT's chief executive. "As a consequence they are not in a position to make lifestyle decisions that could reduce liver damage and may inadvertently be putting others at risk of infection."
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.