Around 20,000 to 50,000 people in Ireland are infected with hepatitis C but only around half are aware of it.
Prof Suzanne Morris of the HSE National Hepatitis C Implementation Group said: "About 1,000 new cases are notified each year and Irish health services will come under pressure in the future if we don't actively work to prevent new cases occurring and diagnose and treat the cases that have already occurred.
"Hepatitis C is often called 'the silent pandemic', partly because the virus takes so long to manifest itself in those infected and is largely spread by blood-to-blood contact.
"For most, initially there are no discernible symptoms, or non-specific ones such as general fatigue. This apparently benign situation can last for decades before turning decidedly worse. Most patients develop chronic liver disease.
"A minority – estimated at 20-30pc – develop cirrhosis of the liver, which typically appears after two or three decades."
Those patients also suffer a higher risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer. The healthcare costs of these 'end-stage conditions' of hepatitis C can be substantial.
They are the leading cause of liver transplants worldwide, including in Europe, the US and Japan.
She added that anyone who may have put themselves at risk of hepatitis C, either through current activities or due to a past lifestyle should visit their GP and get tested.
While the majority of hepatitis C infections are related to injecting drug use, hepatitis C can be acquired by any blood to blood contact," she added.