Members of the public born in Ireland between 1965 and 1985 are being asked for their views on the introduction of once-off testing for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

The Health Information and Quality Authority has launched the public consultation following recommendations from the National Clinical Guideline for Hepatitis C that birth cohort testing be introduced.

Chronic Hepatitis C infection is often called the "silent disease" as many people do not have symptoms, however, it causes damage to the liver and other organs. 

Unless it is treated it can cause substantial morbidity and mortality over time.

One-hundred-and-twenty-eight liver transplants completed in Ireland between 2005 and 2018 were due to HCV. 

HIQA says this does not need to be the case, as highly effective and acceptable treatments for HCV are now available.

A Health Technology Assessment will look at the clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and budget impact of screening.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA's Deputy CEO, has said the prevalence of HCV infection is highest amongst those born between 1965 and 1985 in Ireland. 

"Our analysis found that a one-time birth cohort testing programme for this group represents good value for money, but has significant upfront costs."

Globally, targets are being set to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat. 

Ms Ryan, who is the Director of the Health Technology Assessment (HTA), says that in Ireland the Health Service Executive aims to achieve the World Health Organization target of making Hepatitis C a rare disease before 2030. 

"Introduction of a birth cohort testing programme would improve Ireland's chance of reaching this elimination goal."

HIQA wants to hear the views of the public on this draft report before it is finalised and invites people to give feedback on the HTA until Tuesday, 27 April 2021.

The final report will be subject to approval by the board of HIQA and provided as advice to the Minister for Health to inform a decision on whether or not to provide birth cohort testing for HCV in Ireland.