Chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection affects 0.8-1.0% of the UK population, with up to 70% having ongoing chronic infection. HCV is curable but if left untreated can progress to end stage liver disease and potentially hepatocellular carcinoma. HCV management options have changed dramatically over the past five years, with improvement in cure rates and tolerability; cure rates of more than 90% can now be achieved. The main risk factors for acquiring HCV infection in the UK are injecting drug use and sharing drug using equipment. Other risk factors include receipt of blood products in the UK before 1991; tattooing or acupuncture with non-sterile equipment; medical procedures; needlestick injuries and contact with blood from an infected person. Acute hepatitis C infection has mild symptoms only and is likely to go undiagnosed. The estimated diagnosis rate in England is 35%, suggesting that 65% of the total HCV-positive population remains undiagnosed. The most common method of detecting HCV is case finding in high- risk groups. Those who test positive for HCV antibodies should be tested for persisting viral presence through HCV PCR testing - a positive result confirms active infection. GPs can play a major role in identifying those at risk of the disease, which includes patients with known risk factors and those with unexplained abnormal liver function tests, providing information and arranging testing. Patients with confirmed active HCV infection should be referred to the local specialist hepatology or infectious disease service in accordance with locally agreed pathways.
|Number of pages||3|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2015|