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International News

Hepatitis C Rate May Be Underestimated in UK

March 4, 2005

A new model of hepatitis C virus infection proposed by a Southampton University liver disease specialist estimates that Britain may have two to three times the official number of HCV cases. Official HCV prevalence figures do not give enough weight to the manner in which HCV clusters in high-risk groups and is rare in other groups, said William Rosenberg, professor of medicine at the university. About 1.2 percent of people would have HCV in Britain by Rosenberg's model, rather than the 0.4 percent estimated by the UK Health Protection Agency.

"We are seeing twice the number of cases that we would expect if the official estimates were right," said Rosenberg, who is also a physician at Southampton General Hospital. His model assessed prevalence estimates for drug users, prisoners, health care workers, blood product recipients and STD clinic clients, and multiplied it by the estimated number of people in the groups.

Only 60,000 people in Britain have been diagnosed with chronic HCV, with 3,000 receiving antiviral therapy. Intervention is necessary to prevent a "huge epidemic" of people developing liver failure and requiring transplantation in the next 20 years, Rosenberg said. Last year, the health department launched a campaign encouraging those at risk for HCV to get tested.

"The problem is that many people look at these risks and don't think it applies to them," Rosenberg told the Independent newspaper. "But there is a huge cohort of people who 20 or 30 years ago may have dabbled in drugs, even just once at a party, who could be infected," he said. "They are the ones who could have had the virus for 20 or 30 years now and could soon start developing end-stage liver disease."

Back to other news for March 4, 2005

Adapted from:
Agence de Presse Medicale
02.23.2005; Richard Woodman

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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.
See Also
More HIV Statistics on the United Kingdom