Slovenia on track to eradicate hepatitis C
Slovenia is on track to eradicate hepatitis C. A projection made in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows the country has the lowest hepatitis C virus (HCV) incidence rate in the EU.
An estimated 0.07% of Slovenia's population is still infected with the virus, Mojca Matičič of the Department of Infectious Diseases at the UKC Ljubljana hospital said ahead of World Hepatitis Day, observed on 28 July.
Successful test & treat strategy
With a hepatitis C management strategy in place since 1997, one of the first in the world, Slovenia has been successfully screening for HCV for 25 years.
Testing is easily available and patients get immediate specialist treatment with the most advanced medicines, Matičič told reporters on 24 July.
While only a quarter of HCV-infected people have been identified in Europe, and out of those only two out of three are receiving treatment, Slovenia's results are much better.
Thanks to the "test and treat" strategy implemented in recent years, the projection shows there are only just over 1,000 undetected patients who need to be identified and treated in Slovenia.
Slovenian infectious disease specialists want to raise public awareness of how important it is to detect and treat hepatitis B and C early on to prevent cancer and liver failure.
With its innovative approach to treating HCV, Slovenia was the first country to fully eradicate the disease in certain groups of patients, such as hemophilliacs, patients on dialysis, organ transplant recipients and HIV patients.
It also has a globally-recognized HCV management model for drug users who are part of the opioid substitution treatment programmes.
Together with the Health Ministry, the UKC Ljubljana Department of Infectious Diseases is getting ready to set up a mobile unit to provide comprehensive HCV treatment for the most at-risk and vulnerable groups.
Ahead of World Hepatitis Day people are urged to undergo anonymous, free-of-charge testing for HCV in Ljubljana on 27 and 28 July.
Other types of hepatitis under watch
Last year Slovenia recorded the largest outbreak of acute hepatitis A in this millennium. The virus was mainly transmitted through sexual intercourse between men and was introduced to Slovenia from Hungary. Out of 55 patients, more than half required hospital treatment and two patients nearly experienced liver failure.
Doctors are strongly recommending vaccination against hepatitis A and B. Vaccination against hepatitis B has been part of the national children vaccination programme since 1992.
However, only 80% of Slovenian children were vaccinated against hepatitis B in the 2020-2021 school year, which places the country among those with the lowest vaccination rates among children in Europe.
Because a rising trend of hepatitis D infections has been detected in many EU countries, Slovenia has introduced a routine testing for the disease in all those who have previously been diagnosed with hepatitis B. Two patients have been diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease and given newly-developed drugs to treat it.
A rising number of acute hepatitis E infections has also been detected in Slovenia, mainly as a consequence of eating food containing pork or game that has not been cooked well enough.
The disease can damage organs, mostly kidneys, and the nervous system, causing paralysis and other life-threatening complications.