DUBLIN: Health experts have revealed that at least 20,000 people in Ireland may be undiagnosed with hepatitis C. Even after one World Hepatitis Day passes, 600 to 700 new cases of Hepatitis C are diagnosed each year. Experts warn that Ireland is at least two decades away from eradicating the disease. Yesterday was Hepatitis C Awareness Day. They say that the goal of eliminating the virus that causes this treatable disease has not been achieved even after 21 years. The World Health Organisation hopes to have the disease eradicated by 2030. Experts say Ireland will struggle to achieve this goal.
The silent killer… can cut one’s life by 15 years.
Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation. It can cause cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is transmitted through blood contact with an infected person. If left undiagnosed, this disease can shorten one’s life by up to 15 years. This disease is most commonly seen in drug users. It can also be contracted by getting tattoos, using blood products, using drugs, or engaging in sexual activity. It is one of the world’s few treatable viruses. Diagnosis is by PCR test. The disease can be cured after eight to twelve weeks of treatment.
There is no universal treatment system.
According to experts, the disease’s spread is due to a lack of treatment for those who do not have access to specialist addiction services.
“There has been a significant reduction in the number of people seeking treatment,” Prof. Jack Lambert explained. Stating the figures, he says that it has been reduced to almost two-thirds. – It decreased from 354 in the first three months of 2019 to 110 in the first quarter of this year.
In 2022, only about 650 patients were treated. He claims that in order to eradicate hepatitis C by 2030, we must treat at least 1,500 people per year.
Disease testing and treatment should be made more common.
A group of people with hepatitis C are still with us. As a result, everyone should have a Hepatitis C test at least once in their lives. In the US, this test is done in the forties.
Professor Lambert proposes that the Department of Health conduct a broader screening to identify those who contract Hepatitis C through sexual contact, tattooing, or non-intravenous drug use.
Following the fall of the Soviet Union, many infected people from Eastern Europe arrived in Ireland. He also points out that their stay here leads to an increase in cases. Dr. Patrick O’Donnell a Limerick GP and academic says testing and treatment of Hep C need to be made more common.
Ireland lags far behind on Hep C treatment.
In the United Kingdom, there is a system in place to provide treatment within one hour of diagnosis. However, according to Christy Hayes, head of advocacy at the Hep C Partnership, Ireland has very limited facilities. They also revealed that very few GPs in Ireland were prescribing such treatments.
The World Health Organisation has established clear guidelines for its treatment, but this is not the case in Ireland. As a result, we are not on the list of 11 countries that will eradicate this disease by 2030, they claim.
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