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International News

Australia: Liver Disease to Skyrocket if Hepatitis C Patients Not Treated

October 5, 2006

Untreated hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection will cause a 38 percent rise in liver disease in Australia over the next decade, according to a quadrennial study conducted by the University of New South Wales and the federal government. The study was released Tuesday to coincide with national Hepatitis C Awareness Week.

The annual number of new HCV cases has decreased from 14,000 in 2001 to 10,000 in 2005, found the report. However, cumulative cases rose from about 160,000 to almost 200,000 over those four years. Just 1 percent -- 2,000 people -- are receiving treatment. The report said up to 39,000 of those HCV-infected did not realize it. Cases of serious liver disease, affecting 43,300 Australians in 2005, could rise to almost 60,000 in 2005, the report predicted.

"Basically, people are just not getting the treatment they need so there is nothing to stop disease from advancing to the most serious complications," said Professor Greg Dore, chief of the Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program.

Earlier this year, treatment eligibility criteria were relaxed, leading to an influx of an additional 1,000 patients, said Dore. The target should be more than 6,000 extra patients, he said.

"We need to take treatment to the people with the problem, rather than expecting them to ring up and make an appointment at a hospital clinic, because that's not going to happen," Dore said.

People should consider testing for HCV if they ever injected illegal drugs; had an unsterile tattoo or body piercing; or lived in or had a medical procedure in a country with high HCV rates, said Helen Tyrrell, the Australian Hepatitis Council's executive officer.

Back to other news for October 5, 2006

Adapted from:
Australian Associated Press
10.03.2006; Tamara McLean

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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.
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