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Long, Jean (2007) Hepatitis surveillance in 2005. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 21, spring 2007 , p. 13.

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According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) annual report for 2005,1 there were 1,439 cases of hepatitis C reported in 2005, compared to 1,154 cases in 2004,2 and 85 cases of hepatitis ‘type unspecified’3 in 2003. Of the cases reported in 2005, over 70% were notified by services in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow and the remainder by HSE areas outside these counties. Age-standardised hepatitis C rates per 100,000 of the population living in each former health board area were calculated for 2004 and 2005 (Figure 1). In 2005, the rate was highest in the Eastern Region (at 69 per 100,000) and lowest in the North West (at 2 per 100,000). The rate of hepatitis C cases per 100,000 of the population increased in each of the former health board areas. Sixty-four per cent of hepatitis C cases reported were male. Of the cases for whom age was known, 80% were aged between 20 and 44 years. Data from blood-borne viral prevalence studies indicate that around 70% of injecting drug users attending drug treatment tested positive for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus.4Injecting practices and prison history are associated with hepatitis C status.  

[For figure on -standardised infection rates of hepatitis C per 100,000 population, by HSE area, 2004 and 2005 see PDF document]

It is proposed to introduce an enhanced surveillance system for hepatitis C in Ireland in 2007. Enhanced surveillance is essential to identify risk factors and for planning prevention and treatment strategies. Risk-factor identification is required to fulfil the basic requirements of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction key indicator on drug-related infectious diseases.

In 2004, an enhanced surveillance system was introduced to monitor risk populations diagnosed with acute or chronic hepatitis B.  The number and proportion of chronic cases for whom risk-factor data were reported were very low in 2004 and 2005. Of those for whom risk-factor data were reported, the numbers reporting injecting drug use were very small (Table 1). These low numbers could indicate that an effective immunisation programme prevented many injecting drug users from contracting hepatitis B, or that drug treatment service providers were not aware of the need to report the risk factor status of chronic hepatitis B cases. The situation is likely to be due to a combination of both factors as one in five injecting drug users has hepatitis B, while, on the other hand, many injecting drug users in Dublin receive hepatitis B vaccine.4  

Table 1    Number (%) of acute and chronic hepatitis B cases reported to the HPSC, by risk factor status, 2004 and 2005 


Hepatitis B status











Risk factor status

No. (%)

No. (%)

No. (%)

No. (%)

No. (%)

No. (%)

Total number of cases














Cases with reported risk factor data







       Of which:







      Injecting drug users

1 (2.8)

0 (0.0)

0 (0.0)

0 (0.0)

3 (1.6)

1 (7.7)








Cases without reported risk factor data

21 (36.8)

402 (80.9)

168 (99.4)

25 (33.8)

521 (73.8)

111 (89.5)

Source:  Unpublished data from the HPSC

1. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (2006) Annual report 2005, Dublin: Health Service Executive.

2. Health Protection Surveillance Centre (2005) Annual report 2004, Dublin: Health Protection Surveillance Centre.

3. Disease category under which hepatitis C cases were notified up to the end of 2003.

4. Long J (2006) Blood-borne viral infections among injecting drug users in Ireland, 1995 to 2005. Overview 4. Dublin: Health Research Board



Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 21, spring 2007
January 2007
Page Range
p. 13
Health Research Board
Issue 21, spring 2007
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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