Hepatitis C is a virus that infects the liver. The virus spreads through any type of blood‐to‐blood contact.
- Globally, about 150 million people are chronically infected with the hepatitis C virus, and more than 350 000 people die every year from hepatitis C‐related liver diseases.
- More than 233,000 Australians are living with chronic hepatitis C, which is defined as having had the infection for longer than six months. About 25% of those living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia have moderate to severe liver disease.
- The symptoms of chronic hepatitis C can take years to emerge, however liver damage can progress silently and people living with hepatitis C may feel well. Left untreated it can lead to cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer and liver failure. It is estimated that around 15% of people living with chronic hepatitis C in Australia have not yet been diagnosed.
- Sharing drug injecting equipment is the principle route of hepatitis C transmission in Australia. Needle and syringe programs are effective in helping to stop the spread of hepatitis C. Education about blood awareness and transmission risks is also critical.
- There is no vaccine to protect against hepatitis C, but the infection can be prevented, and in many cases, cured. Due to innovative new treatments, there is a high chance for cure rate for most people living with hepatitis C. More treatments are expected to follow as clinical trials continue over the next few years.