Hepatitis C

Health written question – answered on 14th October 2004.

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Photo of Mr Richard Page Mr Richard Page Conservative, South West Hertfordshire

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what comparisons his Department has made of the prevalence of hepatitis C in the UK with that of other EU members states; and what assessment his Department has made of the reasons for differences.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

In 1996, the French Reseau National de Santé Publique carried out a project funded by the European Commission entitled European Survey on hepatitis C 1. Individual member states provided estimates of the prevalence of hepatitis C in their countries, which are shown in the table. These estimates were based mainly on data about blood donors or selected groups and were presented as an order of magnitude rather than reliable estimates.

The survey showed that the prevalence of hepatitis C tended to be lower in northern European countries and higher in southern European countries. The reasons for these differences are not clear.

1 Nalpas B, Delarocque-Astagneau E, Desenclos J-C. European Survey on hepatitis C December 1996. Project financed by the commission of the European Community: DG V.

Country estimates of the prevalence of hepatitis C antibodies in the general population in the 15 European Economic Community countries, 1996
Country Estimated prevalence (percentage)
Austria 0.2–0.8
Belgium 0.87
Denmark 0.1–0.2
Finland 0.1
France 1.2
Germany 0.2–0.8
Greece 1.0
Ireland 0.3–1.0
Italy 3
Luxembourg 0.2–0.8
Netherlands 0.2–0.8
Portugal 0.5–0.9
Spain 0.1–2.5
Sweden 0.5
U.K 0.3–1.0

Note:

Figures given in italics were not reported in the survey questionnaires returned by member states, and were estimated by the authors of the report using the prevalence estimates from nearest neighbouring state.

In 1999, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published estimates of global hepatitis C prevalence by country that were derived from published studies and/or data submitted to the WHO. Differences in the population groups studied, methods of data collection and interpretation between countries, and availability of data means that the estimated prevalence shown does not necessarily represent the true prevalence in a country. These estimates are available on the WHO website at http://www.who.int/docstore/wer/pdf/1999/wer7449.pdf.

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