November 14th, 2012
The publication of Ireland’s National Hepatitis C Strategy in September 2012 was eagerly awaited, not least due it being over five years in the making. With 35 practical recommendations across four key areas – surveillance; education, prevention and communication; screening and laboratory testing; and treatment – it looks set to be of real benefit to the estimated 20,000 to 50,000 people in Ireland with hep C.
Ireland has a long and painful relationship with hep C. One of the country’s biggest healthcare scandals, during the 1990s, resulted in around 1,700 people becoming infected with hep C after receiving contaminated blood and blood products.
A notable recommendation of the report is the establishment of a dedicated HCV register that will help track people through their treatment – and improve knowledge about hepatitis C infection in Ireland. Apart from those who were infected through blood products in the 1990s, there is currently little known about those who have the condition.
The strategy also recommends that doctors should be given more resources to provide care for those with hep C and it supports a series of initiatives targeting drug users. As the majority of cases result from intravenous drug use, it’s to be hoped that this will result in increased awareness and understanding of the silent disease.
The strategy targets the end of 2014 for its recommendations to be fully put in place, which – given the current economic climate – may be a challenge. It’s clear, though, that there’s significant will in the Irish health service to improve the prevention, detection and treatment of the virus; so we’ll be watching progress with interest.