Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a blood borne virus that infects about 0.8% of Canadians, with rates being much higher in certain groups including those who inject (or have injected) drugs, incarcerated persons, immigrants, and residents of First Nations communities. Rates of HCV are also 3-5 fold higher in those born between the years 1945 and 1975 (baby boomers). Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer in New Brunswick.
Left untreated, complications of HCV will lead to a significant increase in healthcare expenditure over the next two decades. A recent modelling study in Canada suggested that without increased treatment the rates of liver cancer and liver related deaths will increase 205% and 160% over this time period. Access and prioritization of treatment to those with more advanced stages of liver disease are essential to prevent this from happening.The majority of new or incident infections in New Brunswick now occur in persons who inject drugs (PWID). Studies have shown that 70-80% of PWID will be HCV positive after one year. More concerning are studies demonstrating that these people will go on to infect up to 20 other persons, with the majority of transmission events occurring in the first two years of drugs abuse.