Between 1992 and 2004, a total of 49 819 confirmed hepatitis C infections have been reported to the Health Protection Agency (HPA) by laboratories in England and Wales; the annual number of reports increased from 241 in 1991 to 8149 in 2004. Most reports with a known risk factor were in injecting drug users (87%, 12 438/14 221), but 71% (35 598/49 819) of the total had no reported identified risk. The age-sex distribution of the latter cases was similar to that in injecting drug users. Using names to assign ethnicity, individuals with South Asian names had an older age distribution and a different risk factor profile from non-South Asians. Using published age-specific prevalence data from 1996, it was estimated that around 281 764 cases of hepatitis C infection exist in England and Wales, and that only 17% of these cases have been reported to the HPA. Surveillance reports continue to provide important information regarding trends in hepatitis C infection in specific risk groups.