Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver and has various causes. About 25-30 percent of those infected with hepatitis C will clear the virus without treatment, but most people will develop chronic hepatitis C which can cause serious liver damage, including liver failure and liver cancer.

People at risk of hepatitis C include those who have:

  • ever injected drugs
  • ever received a tattoo or body piercing using unsterile equipment
  • had a blood transfusion before 1992
  • ever lived or received medical treatment in a high-risk country
  • ever been in prison
  • been born to a mother with hepatitis C.

For more details on the symptoms, treatment, prevention tips and who to contact refer to the Hepatitis C health information website.


Hepatitis C - Health Information and Services

 

The World Health Organization estimates approximately 50 million people worldwide have chronic hepatitis C infection with an estimated 1 million new infections each year. For more details, refer to their Hepatitis C factsheet.

Hepatitis C affects approximately 20,000-25,000 New Zealanders but because symptoms often don’t show for many years, thousands may be unaware they have it. It is estimated around 500 people currently contract the virus every year, and more than 100 die from it.

Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation and the second leading cause of liver cancer in New Zealand. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C infection, but for most people it can now be cured.

Highly effective antiviral treatment

The  availability of a highly effective, direct-acting antiviral treatment for hepatitis C provides New Zealand with an opportunity to eliminate hepatitis C as a major public health threat. Since February 2019, more than 6,000 New Zealanders with hepatitis C have been treated with Maviret, a new treatment funded by Pharmac.

A course of Maviret,  which is three tablets taken once daily, has fewer side effects than previous treatments, and can potentially cure 98 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C within 8 weeks. New Zealand has a nationally-approved pathway for hepatitis C treatment which includes assessment, treatment, and long-term management of those with significant liver damage.

Health professionals can access this online through HealthPathways through their usual login to see the nationally agreed chronic hepatitis C clinical pathway. 

National Hepatitis C Action Plan

The National Hepatitis C Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand Māhere Mahi mō te Ate Kakā C 2020 – 2030 was launched in July 2021.

The Action Plan  was developed in collaboration with a working group made of representatives from the then DHBs, primary health organisations, government agencies, laboratories, public health services, needle exchange services, community alcohol and other drug services, addiction services, consumer representatives, the hepatitis C health workforce (including hospital specialists, general practitioners and nurses), the Māori and Pacific workforce, and other national and non-governmental organisations.

A National Hepatitis C Oversight Group is in place to guide and monitor implementation of the Hepatitis C Action Plan chaired by Professor Ed Gane, Professor of Medicine at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, Hepatologist and Deputy Director of the New Zealand Liver Unit at Auckland City Hospital.

An integrated approach to the delivery of hepatitis C services  across community and primary and secondary care in New Zealand is coordinated regionally. More information is outlined below.

Information about delivery of hepatitis C services