Deaths from liver disease related to serious hepatitis C (HCV) fell by more than 16% between 2015 and 2017, according to data published by Public Health England (PHE).
As a result, England has hit the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) target to reduce HCV related mortality by 10% by 2020 three years early.
This is thought to be the result of increased treatment provision, together with the availability of direct-acting antiviral drugs, particularly for those with more advanced HCV disease.
However, the report estimates that 113,000 people were living with chronic HCV in England in 2018, and up to 79,000 people are currently living with undiagnosed active HCV infection.
According to the PHE report, injecting drug use continues to be the most important risk factor for HCV infection.
“Hepatitis C infection can have devastating consequences, so the fact that more people are accessing treatment and fewer people are dying from the disease is a huge and very welcome step forward,” said Helen Harris, senior scientist at PHE.
But she highlighted that more needs to be done to eliminate the disease as a major public health threat by 2030, as laid out in the WHO’s global health sector strategy (GHSS) on viral hepatitis.
PHE said its vision was for all people at risk of HCV infection to have easy access to testing and, once tested, that action should be taken to either reduce their risk of infection or to prevent further transmission of the virus.
As well as eliminating HCV as a major public health threat by 2030, the WHO’s GHSS also calls for an 80% reduction of chronic HCV infection and 65% reduction in HCV mortality by 2030 at the latest.