There is no vaccine for hepatitis C, therefore prevention of HCV infection depends upon reducing the risk of exposure to the virus in health-care settings and in higher risk populations, for example, people who inject drugs, and through sexual contact. The following list provides a limited example of primary prevention interventions recommended by WHO:
- hand hygiene: including surgical hand preparation, hand washing and use of gloves;
- safe and appropriate use of health care injections;
- safe handling and disposal of sharps and waste;
- provision of comprehensive harm-reduction services to people who inject drugs including sterile injecting equipment;
- testing of donated blood for hepatitis B and C (as well as HIV and syphilis);
- training of health personnel; and
- promotion of correct and consistent use of condoms.
Secondary and tertiary prevention
For people infected with the hepatitis C virus, WHO recommends:
- education and counselling on options for care and treatment;
- immunization with the hepatitis A and B vaccines to prevent coinfection from these hepatitis viruses and to protect their liver;
- early and appropriate medical management including antiviral therapy if appropriate; and
- regular monitoring for early diagnosis of chronic liver disease.
Screening, care and treatment of persons with hepatitis C infection
In April 2016, WHO updated its "Guidelines for the screening, care and treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis C". These guidelines complement existing WHO guidance on the prevention of transmission of bloodborne viruses, including HCV.
They are intended for policy-makers, government officials, and others working in low- and middle-income countries who are developing programmes for the screening, care and treatment of people with HCV infection. These guidelines will help expand of treatment services to patients with HCV infection, as they provide key recommendations in these areas and discuss considerations for implementation.
- Guidelines for the screening, care and treatment of persons with chronic hepatitis C
Worldwide, 7% of those diagnosed (1.1 million) were started on treatment in 2015. Of those started on treatment in 2015, about half received DAAs. Globally, over the years, the cumulative number of those placed on treatment reached 5.4 million persons in 2015. Most of the patients treated before 2015 received older treatments, primarily interferon-based therapies.