Summary

  • Hepatitis C (HCV) is NOT a vaccine-preventable disease.
  • Over 90% of newly acquired HCV infections in Australia are attributable to injecting drug use.
  • Regularly testing patients at risk of HCV provides an opportunity to educate about safe injecting practices and transmission, as well as to diagnose, intervene and prevent progression of liver disease if HCV infection is present.


Prevention

Currently, hepatitis C (HCV) is not a vaccine-preventable disease. Regular testing of patients at risk of HCV provides an opportunity to educate about safe injecting practices and transmission. Risk groups for hepatitis C include:

  • people with a history of injecting drug use
  • people who are, or have ever been, incarcerated
  • recipients of organs, tissues or blood products before February 1990 in Australia
  • people with tattoos or skin piercing
  • people born in countries with high HCV prevalence
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations
  • sexual partners of people with HCV (though the risk of heterosexual transmission of HCV is low),
  • children born to HCV-positive mothers
  • occupational exposure.

 

Testing

Testing for hepatitis C involves serological assays and molecular assays.


Diagnosis

The initial screening test to be ordered is the hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV) test. A positive anti-HCV test indicates exposure to the virus but does not prove current infection. A qualitative Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test is needed to confirm current infection. A positive PCR confirms the detection of HCV RNA and current infection.

For information on who and how to test and how to interpret serology information, see Decision Making in HCV or The National Hepatitis C Testing Policy

 

What does ASHM do?

We work to support the health workforce by: 

  • Collaborating with the Gastroenterological Society of Australia (Australian Liver Association), the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases, the Australasian Hepatology Association, Hepatitis Australia and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners to produce the Australian recommendations for the management of hepatitis C virus infection: a consensus statement
  • developing a comprehensive range of practical resources to support the health professionals working with hepatitis C, as well as a series of profession-based booklets for groups most in contact with BBVs and STIs.
  • developing and delivering national training curricula, face-to-face ​and online training, as well as webinars cover prevention, testing and diagnosis.
  • National HCV Testing Policy
  • Policy and Advocacy, ​​​​ including GP and nurse practitioner prescribing of new DAA treatments.