Spotlight Series on Hepatitis C

International News

Our Hidden Epidemic: Hepatitis in Australia

November 14, 2013

This article was reported by Star Observer.

The Star Observer reported the release of the Kirby Institute's Annual Surveillance Report 2013 at the Australasian HIV and AIDS Conference in Darwin on October 21. The report estimated that approximately half of the 207,000 hepatitis B-infected Australian residents and 15 percent of hepatitis C-infected residents remained undiagnosed in 2012. Since 2003, the diagnosis rate for newly acquired hepatitis B was declining among people ages 30 and older and among people ages 15-29. However, the report attributed 383 deaths to hepatitis B-related liver disease in 2012. The province of New South Wales (NSW) had the highest number of hepatitis B diagnoses (34.7 percent) in the nation.

Hepatitis NSW Chief Executive Officer Stuart Loveday warned that liver cancer deaths were increasing faster than any other cancer, mainly due to untreated chronic hepatitis B. Since the disease often caused no symptoms, Loveday recommended that people ask their healthcare providers about screening and hepatitis B vaccination. Narci Teoh, professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at Australian National University, stated that hepatitis B treatments were effective and easy to tolerate.

The report also estimated that of the 310,000 Australian residents exposed to hepatitis C, 173,500 had chronic hepatitis C and early liver disease; 51,500 had chronic hepatitis C and moderate liver disease; and 6,500 had hepatitis C-related cirrhosis. Another 80,000 people had cleared hepatitis C infections. The Kirby Institute estimated that people who injected drugs composed approximately 80 percent of all hepatitis C infections, while only 1 percent of these received treatment for the virus.

Last February, Australia's Labor federal government committed $220 million throughout five years to subsidize the purchase of hepatitis C medications boceprevir and telaprevir through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The Kirby Institute estimated that 10-15 percent of HIV-infected Australian residents also had hepatitis C.

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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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