Warnings that 'many unaware of hepatitis C infection'

Dr Helen Harris, a hepatitis expert at Public Health England said:

While there has been an increase in confirmed cases of hepatitis C infection, partly as a result of increased testing and partly because of improved laboratory reporting, sadly, many people chronically infected with hepatitis C remain unaware of their infection.

For many, it can be several years or even decades before they develop symptoms.

Antiviral therapies exist that will clear the virus in most cases, yet only around 3% of the chronically infected population in England access them each year.

If the number of people being treated is doubled over the next 10 years, around 6,000 new cases of hepatitis C-related end stage liver disease could be averted over the next 30 years.

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Warning after rise in hep C cases

The number of cases of hepatitis C has increased by more than a third in two years. There were 7,882 cases confirmed in England in 2010, rising to 10,873 in 2012. Experts estimate there are 160,000 living with hep C, many unaware they are infected.