On Jan 15, the Economist Intelligence Unit supported by Janssen Pharmaceuticals published a report: The Silent Pandemic: Tackling hepatitis C with policy innovation. The report examines the health challenge posed by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and how comprehensive approaches that reflect the local needs and available resources can improve the health-care response to this deadly virus worldwide.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne infectious disease, but the infection is often asymptomatic for years, even decades, and so many people are unaware of their condition. By the time they fall ill and seek help, considerable damage has been done to their liver, resulting in end-stage conditions that are complex to treat and impose huge medical and societal costs.
The report notes that the lack of robust epidemiological data means the magnitude of the problem is unknown, but the number of people with chronic HCV is set to rise substantially in the future.
The report calls for effective disease surveillance to create an accurate picture of the problem and to ensure appropriate policies can be developed.
Greater public and physician awareness of the disease is crucial, especially to combat the associated stigma the disease has with injecting drug use.
Measures are needed to prevent transmission through unsafe health-care practices, which is the major route of HCV transmission in developing countries. And innovative ways are required to reach out to patients to ensure those who need treatment receive it before end-stage conditions develop.