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[Irish Medical Times] Surge expected in liver cirrhosis cases. (19 Apr 2012)

External website: http://www.imt.ie/clinical/2012/04/surge-expected-...

A significant surge in liver disease is expected to take place in Ireland over the next 20 years as a long-term legacy of the country’s heroin problem, a leading public health medicine expert has claimed.

A recently-published study estimated that Ireland currently has between 20,000 and 50,000 people with hepatitis C infection. It is estimated that between 5 per cent and 20 per cent of those with chronic hepatitis C are likely to develop cirrhosis within 20 years of being infected.

The use of needle-injected drugs has led to a prevalence of Hepatitis C infection, with a peak in diagnosis in Ireland occurring between 1997 and 2001.

Health authorities will need to start quantifying the burden now in order to plan services for the years ahead, said Dr Lelia Thornton of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, who addressed the recent Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) Spring meeting in Kilkenny on the subject of ‘Prevalence of hepatitis C virus infection in Ireland’.

Dr Thornton also recently published a paper on the burden of hepatitis C infection in Ireland. “Unless they receive antiviral treatment, most people who become infected with hepatitis C will remain infected for the rest of their lives, with the risk that they may develop cirrhosis,” said Dr Thornton.

It is estimated that around 80 per cent of hepatitis C infections in Ireland are the result of drug use, with by far the most cases occurring on the Eastern seaboard area around Dublin.


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