Surveillance and outbreak reports Open Access
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In Sweden, infection with hepatitis C virus (HCV) has been a notifiable disease since 1990, when diagnostic methods became available. Blood donor screening indicated that about 0.5% of the Swedish population (9 millions) had been HCV infected. Here we present the Swedish hepatitis C epidemic based on data from all the HCV notifications 1990-2006. During this time about 42,000 individuals (70% men) were diagnosed and reported as HCV infected. The majority (80%) were born in 1950 or later, with a high percentage (60%) born in the 1950s and 1960s. Younger people, 15-24 years old at notification, were reported on the same level each year. The main reported routes of HCV transmission were intravenous drug use in 65%, blood transfusions/products in 6%, and sexual in 2%, though unknown or not stated in 26%. Approximately 6,000 of all notified individuals have died during the study period. To conclude, the Swedish HCV epidemic is highly related to the increase of intravenous drug use in the late 1960s and 1970s, with a high proportion of people now chronically infected for more than 25 years, resulting in an increase of severe liver complications in form of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Furthermore the unchanged number of notifications of newly infected younger people indicates an ongoing HCV epidemic.


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