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Huge numbers of Hep B and C cases here
[Posted: Thu 01/06/2006 www.irishhealth.com]
By Niall Hunter-Editor
A huge increase in reported cases of Hepatitis B in Ireland over the past decade is due to better screening programmes and an increasing number of cases which have originated abroad and among IV drug users, according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).
It says there is also a very high incidence of hepatitis C in Ireland at present.
According to the latest statistics from the centre, Ireland had only 11 notified cases of Hepatitis C in 1995, compared to 851 in 2005. To date this year there have been 290 cases reported.
Hepatitis B is a serious disease caused by a virus that attacks the liver. Symptoms include jaundice, abdominal pain and fatigue and it can lead to chronic liver disease.
It can be prevented by vaccination.
Dr Lelia Thornton, Specialist in Public Health Medicine with the HPSC, told irishhealth.com that the most likely reason for the considerably higher number of cases is that screening for the condition have now improved.
She said the majority of cases of hepatitis B at present would be chronic carriers, rather than people who are acutely ill with the condition.
You can become a chronic carrier for life without actually having symptoms of hepatitis B she said, and up to 25% of these cases will go on to develop serious serious liver disease.
Dr Thornton said many of the chronic carriers would have become infected many years ago. "Where we do have information on these cases, it would seem that most of the chronic carriers became infected abroad in countries with a high or moderate prevalence of hepatitis B."
High prevalence countries would include those in Sub-Saharan Africa and moderate prevalence countries include those in eastern Europe.
Dr Thornton said here is a voluntary screening programme in Ireland for asylum seekers and this would be one of the factors in the increase in hepatitis B and would be the source of a lot of notifications.
She said hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids and many cases would also be picked up through the screening of intravenous drug users.
Dr Thornton said most of the acute cases reported would be among people born in Ireland or Western Europe, while the chronic cases would mostly be cases from countries with a higher prevalence of hepatitis B.
"For the individual concerned it is in their interests to know that they have hepatitis B as they can then be referred for appropriate treatment."
Hepatitis B is preventable through vaccination. At present vaccination is recommended for high risk groups including healthcare workers, IV drug users, men who have sex with men, sex workers, babies born to mothers who are chronic carriers, and patients and carers in intellectual disability centres.
The National Imnmisations Committee is currently considering whether universal childhood vaccination against hepatitis C should be introduced.
As regards hepatitis C infection, it only became a notifiable disease in 2004.
According to Dr Thornton, this also has a high prevalence in Ireland, with 1,100 cases in 2004 and 1,400 cases last year.
Hepatitis C is also a serious infection. Symptoms include nausea, loss of appetite and jaundice. Many people who get it can develop chronic liver disease including cirrhosis of the liver. There is no vaccination for hepatitis C.
Dr Thornton said the HPSC does not have detailed information on the cases being reported at present, but the majority of drug users have hepatitis C and that is probably the explanation for the majority of hepatitis C cases.
The HPSC says that as the official notification of hepatitis C only began two years ago, the figures do not include people infected by blood products. Around 1,700 people in Ireland were infected under this category. Dr Thornton stressed, however, that blood products are now safe.
The State has had to pay compensation to around 1,300 women infected with hepatitis C through the use of contaminated anti-D blood products.
|Anonymous Posted: 12/07/2006 16:45|
|If the majority of drug users are Hepatitis C positive - is the prevelance of 1,100 in 2004 and 1,400 in 2005 a big underestimation?|
|mary(quinlanfam) Posted: 19/10/2006 22:59|
|i would like to ask why our health officials are not offering hep b vaccinations to all students in collages in ireland as they do in other eu countries and uk if they dont do this they are leaving themselves open to being suedby parents of children who pick the virus up from other? IT HAS HAPPENED|
|jade(OAW55689) Posted: 04/04/2007 18:32|
|people need to be educated on these health issues, PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE!!!|
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