Hepatitis C is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis C virus. The virus can cause both acute and chronic infection, ranging from a mild illness that lasts a few weeks to a serious lifelong illness that may cause cirrhosis (scarring of the liver), liver cancer or liver failure if left untreated. In Australia, the main route of transmission of the hepatitis C virus is through injecting drug use. While there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection, new treatments can cure hepatitis C in more than 90% of cases.
In 2016, there were a total of 11,949 new cases of hepatitis C infection in Australia. The overall rate of hepatitis C diagnoses in Australia has remained stable between 2012 and 2015, however increased by 12% in the past year.
At the start of 2016, there were 227,306 people living with chronic hepatitis C. An estimated 30,434 people were cured of hepatitis C in 2016, following the introduction of new direct-acting antiviral treatment through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Between 2007 and 2015, there was a 61% increase in the estimated number of people living with chronic hepatitis C who had severe fibrosis, and a 79% increase in the estimated number of people with hepatitis C-related cirrhosis. However, in 2016, for the first time in ten years, the estimated number of people in Australia living with hepatitis C who had severe liver disease because of their infection reduced by 10% (severe fibrosis) and by 38% (hepatitis C-related cirrhosis).
By the end of 2016, more than 120,000 people with hepatitis C were yet to undergo assessments for treatment (including by undertaking the additional tests (RNA) required to confirm their diagnosis). Also, about a third of all liver transplants (31%) and an estimated 814 deaths were attributable to hepatitis C infection.
You can explore the hepatitis C data from Australia in the interactive graphs below.
Scroll down to read the interpretation of the data and to download the full version of the report.