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Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 143 No. 1920 (2013)

Hepatitis B and C in Switzerland – healthcare provider initiated testing for chronic hepatitis B and C infection

  • Rainer Fretz
  • Francesco Negro
  • Philip Bruggmann
  • Daniel Lavanchy
  • Andrea De Gottardi
  • Isabelle Pache
  • Virginie Masserey Spicher
  • Andreas Cerny
DOI
https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2013.13793
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2013;143:w13793
Published
05.05.2013

Abstract

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are contagious liver diseases caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the hepatitis C virus (HCV), respectively. In particular, chronic infection with HBV or HCV is a major public health problem throughout Europe. The majority of persons chronically infected (65%–75%) are not aware of their infection status until symptoms of advanced liver disease appear. In addition, the peak in the number of patients suffering from advanced stages of the disease, such as cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, has not yet been reached. In order to reduce the current and future morbidity and mortality associated with chronic HBV or HCV infection, the timely detection of chronically infected persons, with follow-up and case management, is crucial. However, the current screening strategies in Europe and Switzerland have to be considered as inadequate to detect the majority of chronically infected persons. Hence, we emphasise the importance of an alternative approach: the healthcare provider initiated identification of HBV or HCV infection in defined risk groups. This entails determining whether a person is not only at risk of being chronically infected, but also at risk of becoming infected with HBV or HCV and, if necessary, testing for HBV or HCV infection.

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