Home > Viral hepatitis policies in Europe.

European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2018) Viral hepatitis policies in Europe. Lisbon: EMCDDA.

External website: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/topic-ove...

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the most common infectious disease in people who inject drugs, among whom it is usually transmitted through the sharing of syringes and other drug use equipment. Most of those who become infected go on to develop chronic HCV infection, which can lead to severe health problems in individuals and place a major burden on healthcare systems. Yet the infection is both preventable and treatable, and new medicines exist that can cure hepatitis C among nearly all of those infected.

In Europe, hepatitis C virus infection is highly prevalent among people who inject drugs, or have done so in the past, with national infection rates for this group ranging from 18 % to 80 %. However, infected individuals often show no noticeable symptoms, and many are unaware that they are carrying the virus, leading to it being referred to as a ‘hidden’ epidemic. Injecting opioid users in Europe constitute an ageing population, which includes many who have been living with hepatitis C for 20 or more years. The natural history of chronic HCV infection and the ageing cohort effect in this population mean that a large burden of advanced liver disease can be expected over the next decade.

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