Hepatitis C

Work in progress for improving hepatitis prevention and treatment services in New Zealand.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that attacks the liver and can lead to cancer.

The World Health Organization estimates there are 71 million people affected by hepatitis C around the world. For more details refer to their Hepatitis C factsheet.

Hepatitis C affects approximately 45,000 New Zealanders but because symptoms often don’t show for many years, thousands may be unaware they have it. Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplantation and the second leading cause of liver cancer in New Zealand. It is estimated around 1,000 people currently contract the virus every year, and more than 200 die from it.

The recent development 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, around 4,500 New Zealanders with hepatitis C have been treated with Maviret, a new treatment funded by PHARMAC.

Maviret is simple to administer, has fewer side effects than previous treatments, and can potentially cure 98 percent of people with chronic hepatitis C.

The Ministry is preparing for the launch of the National Hepatitis C Action Plan for Aotearoa New Zealand Māhere Mahi mō te Ate Kakā C 2020 – 2030. The Action Plan is New Zealand’s response to the World Health Organization’s call to action and sets out how we will eliminate viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030.

The Action Plan has been developed in collaboration with a working group made of representatives from 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.

The Action Plan will be launched and published on World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2021.

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 and prevention refer to Hepatitis C.

DHB regions have been revising the delivery of hepatitis C services by integrating service delivery across primary and secondary care. More information about all of these developments is outlined in the following pages.

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