Clin Microbiol Infect 2011; 17: 107–115
More than 20 years after the discovery of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), it is now well established that HCV is of global importance affecting all countries, leading to a major global health problem that requires widespread active interventions for its prevention and control. Chronic hepatitis C was linked to the development of cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma in many areas of the world. Current epidemiological assessments have identified complex patterns with highly variable local prevalence rates between countries and within countries. HCV infection patterns have not significantly changed in most parts of the world since 1997, when first analyzed, partly due to the lack of new and more accurate data. The assessment of the national HCV prevalence and transmission modes should be completed to enable national authorities to prioritize preventive measures and to make the most appropriate use of available resources. The ‘patchy’ epidemiological situation in some areas will continue to complicate the task of the establishment of global, regional and national base line data. The present assessment finds a global prevalence of 2.35%, affecting 160 million chronically infected individuals. There is an urgent need for more accurate Information on the costs and burden of HCV to society. Twenty-one year after the discovery of HCV, the assessment is far from being complete and little progress has been made in the past 10 years in many countries. In some countries significant increases have been reported and this may also apply to countries were insufficient data exist. A safe and efficient vaccine against HCV is urgently needed.