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Chronic Viral Hepatitis

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Overall key points

Chronic viral Hepatitis is a leading cause of liver disease and liver cancer.

Many cases are undiagnosed yet effective treatments are available.

Many do not become symptomatic until liver disease is advanced.

Early diagnosis and treatment improve outcomes.

Primary care practitioners have a key role in identifying, testing and referring patients.

Part 1 Epidemiology

The most common viruses that cause hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) are hepatitis A, B and C. Most people recover from hepatitis A with no lasting liver damage but chronic infection with hepatitis B and C is a leading cause of liver disease, liver cancer and a growing reason for liver transplantation in the UK. Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) are bloodborne and primarily attack the liver.

The WHO1,2 estimates there are 350 million people with chronic HBV infection and 170 million with chronic HCV infection worldwide. In the UK, prevalence of both HBV and HCV is less than 2 per cent3 increasing significantly in high-risk groups.

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