A new Public Health England (PHE) hepatitis C report suggests that headway is being made in averting severe hepatitis C-related liver disease and preventing the early deaths that can result from it.
Better access to improved treatment has led to deaths falling by 8% in 2015, the first fall in such deaths observed in a decade, suggesting that we are on the right road to meet the new World Health Organisation (WHO) target to reduce hepatitis C mortality by 10% by 2020.
However, Hepatitis C deaths will not continue to fall unless those people who are still undiagnosed, and those who become infected in the future, are found and treated.
PHE is establishing a cross-agency expert group on viral hepatitis to provide strategic direction and advice around hepatitis C (and other viral hepatitides).
The group will be a forum to explore operational and implementation issues to help find the best ways to overcome barriers at all levels and make improvements to delivery of services, and high up on the agenda will be the urgent need to find those who remain undiagnosed.
Encouragingly, the new report shows a steady increase in the number of diagnosed infections over the past two decades, reaching a peak of 11,605 reports in 2015. An increase in testing is also observed in sentinel surveillance, which suggests a near 20% increase overall and around a 25% increase in testing via GP surgeries between 2011 and 2015.
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