Since hepatitis C was first recognized in 1989, it has gained increasing significance. More than half the number of individuals exposed to HCV develop chronic infection; and among them around 20% to 30% develop liver cirrhosis and/ or hepatocellular carcinoma within twenty to thirty years. Improved diagnostic techniques and possibilities of therapeutic intervention have brought out the role of HCV infection in acute and chronic liver disease (Hentiges & Wands, 1997: 521).
This paper proposes to examine the hepatitis C virus (HCV), its pathophysiology and various other dimensions of the infection including the public health implications, the importance of raising public awareness, clinical governance and surveillance.
Hepatitis C infection has been found worldwide, especially in the southeast Asian countries, in northern African and Arabian countries, and with highest prevalences in the Ukraine and in the central African countries of Gabon and Cameroon, as well as in Egypt where up to 14.5% of the population is infected with the Hepatitis C virus.
Size of the Problem: HCV infection in Hong Kong is associated predominantly with multiple blood transfusions (67% to 87% anti-HCV positive) and intravenous drug abuse (56% anti-HCV positive). However, the source of infection is unidentified in a large number of HCV carriers (Ho & Wu, 1995: 15). The world-wide prevalence of hepatitis C is estimated at 170 million people or 3% of the global population, with a disease spectrum ranging from mild to severe chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Most people infected with HCV are unaware of their clinical status, due to which the actual prevalence of the infection may be under-reported. Around 85% of infected persons are chronically infected by the virus, and 70% of the infected develop chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma