Disease lurking

AS MANY as 7000 Tasmanians could have hepatitis C, but only 3830 people are aware that they are living with the virus.

Between 2000 and 2012  there were 3830 recorded cases in the state of individuals with the blood-borne virus.

A Tasmanian Health Department spokesman said that while the disease could affect anyone at any age, it was estimated that in 2011 there were 220,000 Australians with chronic hepatitis C.

``[About] 3830 people notified the Department of Health [in Tasmania of their] hepatitis C infection between 2000 and 2012,'' the spokesman said. 

``While it is challenging to definitely determine the number living with hepatitis C in Tasmania, it may be approximately 7000 people.''

In the past  week  the federal government moved to address the hepatitis C health crisis by adding two drugs to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme - Boceprevir and Telaprevir -  at a cost of $220 million over five years.

It serves as a hope to those who live with the virus by removing the financial barrier to the drugs, which were previously only available unsubsidised for $78,000.

A Launceston woman, who took 30 years to discover that she had hepatitis C,  said that while the subsidy was ``a lot of government money . . . it comes down to quality of life''.

``I don't just think of myself, I think of all the other people that it could help. We deserve a chance to live,'' she said.

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